Jimin hums tunelessly, watching Yoongi’s reactions and microexpressions. He’d like to think of himself as someone intuitive enough to read when a person is uncomfortable, so he doesn’t push it no matter how badly he’d love to hear his hyung play. “Someday, I wanna hear you!”
Yoongi’s face smoothens out in relief. Chortling, he walks past Jimin and ruffles his hair. “Maybe.” With a small grunt, he falls back on his bed and closes his eyes, arms eagle-spread. “What movie do you wanna watch?”
Jimin perches on one corner of his bed. “The Notebook!”
“You like romance?”
Jimin shrugs. “It’s what everyone likes.”
“But what do you like?” Yoongi lifts his head and cracks an eye open at him.
For a long and strange moment, Jimin just stands there, tongue caught in a tangle while he just drinks in the sight of Yoongi in his bed.
At his stuttered speech, Yoongi sits up and tilts his head, waiting with one eyebrow raised. He looks so devastating, Jimin thinks, when he’s just in comfortable attire. His hair is a mess and his hoodie’s strings are entwined. Jimin is half compelled to fix it for him.
/I want to hug him/. The thought springs unbidden in Jimin’s mind, raw and prickling. Jimin gives a shuddering exhale, confounded by the source of such a unique line of thinking.
Because sure, he hugs Jungkook all the time.
But why does he want to hug Yoongi… differently?
But what kind of ‘different’? That doesn’t even make sense!
Yoongi must sense a troubled shift in his expression, because he prompts in a softer tone, “So… romance, Jimin?”
“I DO NOT LIKE ROMANCE,” Jimin blurts, his Busan accent coming on strong. Which means he sounds harsher.
Yoongi makes a scrunchy-nosed face at him, snorting. “Okay, alright, tiger, calm down. We’ll put on something else.”
“Horror, I want horror,” Jimin grits out, mentally chastising himself. He abhors anything supernatural, but if watching a romance movie sends his mind haywire…
…then so be it. Jimin is a young adult! He can take a pinch of horror!
Yoongi casts him a momentary apprehensive look, before shrugging and browsing through the library. “Fine by me. What about ‘Haunting of Hill House’?”
Jimin nods. He can take haunted house stories. “Good.”
It’s not exactly a movie but more of a series, so they decide to give just the first episode a try. Jimin sits on the bed, scooting backwards until his back touches the headboard. Yoongi grabs the snack bowl and settles next to him, close enough for their arms to touch.
The first few minutes roll by without much of a fuss, and as time goes by Jimin actually appreciates how the show doesn’t seem to rely on too many jump scares.
“Just as I thought,” he remarks, opening a new bag of chips. “Western horror doesn’t hold a candle to Asian horror.”
Instead of making crude commentary and bantering with him like Jimin expected, Yoongi is sitting incredibly still, eyes glued to the screen. “Uh. Yeah.”
Jimin leans over to get a better look of Yoongi’s face, then laughs. “Daebak. Are you actually invested in this?”
Jimin nods slowly, not quite believing him. “Okay.” He returns his attention to the show.
Onscreen, one of the younger children, a little girl, is complaining about being unable to sleep because of the ‘Bent-Neck Lady’. Then the dad kisses them good night and closes the door.
But when the dad walks down the hallway and turns back, he finds the same door that he had closed earlier, now ajar.
A chill racks Jimin’s spine. Okay, /that/ was creepy.
He glances at Yoongi’s own bedroom door to make sure it’s still locked, & shifts one inch closer to Yoongi.
From then on, the scenes seem to rapidly progress in scary-ness, leaving Jimin’s pulse thudding harder than usual. It’s like watching a nightmare and being unable to stop yourself from getting sucked into the spiral. He shrinks away from the TV, bag of chips forgotten.
Another scene comes up featuring the same young girl, who asked to sleep in thr living room with her mother because the Bent-Neck Lady was apparently being insistent in her shared bedroom with her brother. Jimin does not like the mood and the dark palette of this current frame.
“I don’t understand,” he says shakily, if only to diffuse his own rising fright, “If I were the eomma. I wouldn’t leave my daughter alone to sleep in the living room!”
Next to him, Yoongi’s face is as white as powder. One of his hands is clutching the hem of Jimin’s sleepshirt.
Jimin finds that he doesn’t mind, especially since in the next scene, the Bent-Neck Lady finally appears, looming over the sleeping young girl. Both of Jimin’s hands instinctively shoot out to reach for Yoongi’s sleeve.
The horrifyingly buzzing music rises. Jimin scoots closer.
His eyes are screwed tight by the time the music reaches its peak volume. A tiny squeak escapes Jimin as he burrows his face into Yoongi’s sleeve and wedges himself to his side even further.
“Yes?” Jimin keeps his face smooshed to Yoongi’s arm.
“I’m falling off.”
Jimin cracks one eye open to survey the situation. Sure enough, he’s shuffled them both so far to the left side that Yoongi is sitting precariously right at the edge of his own bed.
A long pause passes. On TV, there’s more English conversations.
“You have to actually move.”
“Ah. Right.” Jimin shifts back to his original position, but then he hears a low groan from Yoongi.
“Jimin-ah, you- could you let go of my right arm for a bit? It’s cramping.”
“Oh! Sorry.” Jimin flexes his fingers and retracts his hands.
With nothing else to hold onto, Jimin stares down at his lap and clasps his own fingers together. That should keep them from wandering.
A chuckle sounds from beside him. “I thought you liked horror.”
“I do,” Jimin insists.
Yoongi scoffs, then lifts his hoodie to take it off.
And damn it, Jimin really CAN’T focus on the show at this point, because now Yoongi is topless next to him, and wow—his skin is like milk and nipples are rosy! He’s got a lanky frame that would look nice if they filled out someday, but Jimin’s more surprised at his toned stomach.
“Waaaah,” he whistles, ogling Yoongi’s body. His hyung probably works out. Thst’s what older hyungs do all the time. Jimin’s hands come around his own midriff to feels his tummy, but all he gets is a flat, less flattering plane of skin and fat.
Yoongi tosses his hoodie at him.
“Wear it.” Yoongi walks over to his wardrobe and tugs on a navy blue sweater. “You’ve got goosebumps all over.”
Jimin grins and obliges. Two arms in, then his head. Yoongi’s oversized hoodie smells like body soap and tangerines. Jimin wants to keep it. “Hyung, do you work out?”
Yoongi just shrugs, which is the most frustrating non-answer ever. He joins Jimin on the bed again and grabs the remote to point it at the TV screen. “Are you still going to watch or not?”
“Let’s just finish this ep,” Jimin decides, already feeling 100% safer in Yoongi’s hoodie.
The rewind the last few scenes they missed and lean against each other. When Jimin senses that a new freaky scene is about to happen, he pauses and turns to Yoongi.
“Can I hold your hand if I get scared?”
Yoongi’s eyes lock with his. Then he laughs. “You’re just like him.”
“An old friend from piano class,” Yoongi says. “Very into skinship. Now focus on the show.”
“But you still haven’t answered me,” Jimin insists, his feet jiggling under the blanket in protest. He /needs/ to know, because what if he makes Yoongi uncomfy or anxious?
Yoongi clicks his tongue, and Jimin’s mind gives a quiet mental ‘yikes’, but then his hyung holds out a palm.
Jimin’s insides turn into goo, his spirits soaring. All this time of trying not to hold Yoongi’s hand—and all he had to do was /ask/?
All those wasted chances!
With a squeak, Jimin links his left hand with Yoongi’s right, then hugs their intertwined hands close to his chest like a kid with a new teddy bear. “Yesss.”
Although the back of his hands are rough and criss-crossed with scars, Yoongi’s actual palms are soft. Jimin squeezes it.
Yoongi turns his head to look at him with a softness Jimin has never noticed before. His smiling eyes flicker down to their locked hands, before sliding back to the TV screen.
Watching horror without a handholding partner is a nightmare. But with Yoongi’s hands? Manageable!
There’s one scene in the episode that totally catches Jimin off-guard, not because of its horror elements but because the characters’ behavior sticks out in his mind:
A girl walks into a club and makes googly eyes at another girl, and in the next frame they’re in bed together!
Jimin’s jaw goes slack as he stares at the two girls kissing, and there’s a stirring in his chest that he belatedly identifies as panic, and to a certai extent—fascination.
“Girls can kiss each other?” he asks.
Yoongi hums. “Girls can kiss whoever they want.”
“Not just guys?”
“Yep.” Yoongi’s eyes are still plastered to the screen, and Jimin has an inkling that his hyung is only half-aware of the current conversation.
He glances down at their entwined fingers, vaguely aware of what’s happening onscreen. “What about guys, then? Not just girls?”
And perhaps Yoongi heard the slight uptick of doubt mixed with fear in his trembling voice, because then his eyes shift to pierce into Jimin’s, dark and flashing.
“Not just girls, either.”
Jimin sucks in a shallow, quiet breath. Yoongi’s brows furrow.
Someone on TV screams.
It’s so loud and startling that it rips Jimin out of his line of thought. He, too, lets out a small yelp, followed by a long, pitchy fart.
Yoongi muffles a snort.
Jimin gasps and covers his mouth, heat flooding his cheeks. He stares at Yoongi with watery eyes.
“Don’t you laugh,” he threatens, turning and rolling to the side of the bed, away from Yoongi, until he drops to the floor.
“I’m—“ Yoongi coughs loudly to cover a garbled noise. “Not laughing.”
Screw the horror movie! Now all Jimin wants is to pop into thin air like a bubble.
Lying on the floor. Jimin covers his face and release a quiet whine. “It’s been long day, okay! And I had a bit of indigestion! Let me live.”
Yoong crawls across until his face pops out of the edge of his bed, several inches directly above Jimin’s. “I’m not laughing. See?”
Jimin squints his eyes at him. “You have the laughing eyes, though.”
“Ah. So you want me to NOT smile. Roger that.” Yoongi wrinkles his face into an exaggerated frown.
Jimin huffs, both hands reaching up. Using his thumbs, he tugs the corners of Yoongi’s mouth up. “No. Smile.”
“Heol.” In retaliation, Yoongi’s hands shoot down to pinch both sides of Jimin’s cheeks. “You’re a brat.”
They stay like that for a good few seconds, pulling and tugging at each other’s cheeks until Jimin’s pouty tantrum blooms into giggling.
Eventually, his fingers tire of pinching, so his hands travel north, thumbs hovering over Yoongi’s eyes as his penpal’s eyelids flutter shut.
“You have long eyeslashes, hyung,” Jimin muses. He traces his thumbs across Yoongi’s eyebrows, marveling at how smooth his skin is.
One of Yoongi’s hands come to a rest against Jimin’s cheeks. “Jimin-ah.”
Jimin thinks his favorite hyung has never looked more squishy than now, with his dark hair all tousled and backlit by the warm light hanging from the ceiling. “Hmm?”
“Suppose you don’t leave?”
Jimin frowns. “Huh?”
“Hypothetically speaking,” Yoongi says quietly, dark eyes glimmering. “If you didn’t have to go. Do you”—he swallows, Adam’s apple bobbing—“would you consider going to the same university together? In Seoul?”
Jimin’s heart gives a slam. He sits up slowly.
He hasn’t even left Yoongi’s side yet, but looking into that earnest gaze, a hollow well of grief gapes wide in his chest. He’s struck with a sudden desperation to play make believe for as long as he may.
“Okay. Let’s go to the same uni together.”
/I’ll make it happen./
Yoongi’s glassy eyes scan his, and it’s quiet between them until he sighs softly. Jimin wonders if he believes him.
“If you stay in the country, what major will you take?” Yoongi helps pull Jimin up so they can sit on the bed again, then snatches the remote to turn off the TV.
“Dunno. Haven’t planned.” Jimin scuttles towards the pillows and tucks himself under the thick blanket. “What about you, hyung?”
“I was planning to apply to Seoul Arts Institute,” Yoongi shares, crawling to his side.
“But then we can’t attend the same campus. I’m untalented.”
Yoongi shoots him a sharp look. “No self-deprecation under my watch.”
“But that’s why I was thinking—I could study psychology at one of the other local unis,” Yoongi continues. “If you stay, I’d rather do psychology than music.”
“If I stay, we’ll cafe-hop together!”
“If we attend the same uni, we won’t have to travel between Daegu and Busan anymore,” Yoongi surmises, lying flat on his back.
Jimin mirrors him and lies down, too. “If we attend the same uni, we could be roommates!”
“Maybe. Otherwise I’d visit your dorm.”
Jimin can picture his college life happening that way—walking down the corridors with a cooler, older upperclassman, hand-in-hand. Visiting nearby PC cafes and gaming together all night. Watching live buskers perform at Hongdas on weekends. “We can study at the library together.”
Yoongi snickers. “Good luck not falling asleep in there.”
“I’m a diligent student, hyung,” Jimin scoffs. “If anyone here’s more likely to fall asleep, it’s /you/.”
Jimin smacks the side of Yoongi’s hip, which elicits a hiss.
“By the way, wanna see something cool?”
“What?” Jimin asks, watching Yoongi as he slips off the bed and walks to a flick a switch on the wall.
Just when he thought nothing about the Mins’ home could surprise him any further, Yoongi’s entire ceiling begins to slide off, revealing the velvety blanket of a starry night.
Words dissipate from Jimin’s mouth, making it run dry, and he can only gawk in amazement at the ceiling, and the boy who has single-handedly transformed one of the worst nights of his life into a favorite memory. The boy who’s given him the sky.
Yoongi hops back into bed.
“I don’t often use it,” he admits, scratching the back of his ear. “Parents’ idea, not mine. It’s just so… extra, isn’t it?”
“Are you kidding me?!” Jimin throws his arms up in the air wildly, still lying on his back. “This is next level! Hyung, you’re officially the coolest.”
Yoongi heads lands next to his with a quiet /fwoomp/. This close to him, Jimin’s skin tingles with warmth.
(Or maybe it’s because he’s feeling extra hot from wearing Yoongi’s hoodie.)
“Are you scared?” Yoongi asks, the low rumble of his voice carrying softly between them.
“Of what?” Jimin says distractedly, wishing he had telescopic vision. The sky is massive. In science class they did a chapter on astronomy, where they learned all about the planets & constellations. If he had supersonic vision he might see the Oort cloud from here.
Jimin tears his eyes away from Yoongi’s glass ceiling to look at him, only for his breath to hitch at the view that greets him. Under the moonlight, Yoongi’s already-fair skin seems to glow—a human moon with its own face.
“What happens when you get back? She’s probably furious.”
“You have pearly cheeks,” Jimin states out of the blue.
Yoongi freezes, mouth ajar, before he seems to compose himself and sighs. “Jiminie…”
“I don’t know.” Jimin shrugs. He’s not usually this reckless, but tonight he just /can’t/. “I’ll worry about that when I do get home.”
A blanket of silence falls over them. Jimin rolls over his side to study his hyung’s face. Yoongi looks conflicted, opening and closing his mouth, but ultimately seems to decide against pushing the matter any further.
“How ahout you?“ Jimin asks.
“Is your eomma scary?”
Yoongi bristles. He shakes his head, then rolls over so that he’s facing Jimin, too, both of his hands creeping up to pillow his head. “She’s… difficult.”
Jimin doesn’t say a word, just waits.
“She used to have these grand dreams of sending me to Juilliard when I was younger.”
Jimin gasps softly. “New York?”
Yoongi nods. “But over time I stopped winning concours, and I think it made her realize that I’m not… I’m not what she hoped I could be.”
“I don’t understand,” Jimin says. “Why is she being such a harsh perfectionist on you? But not your hyung?”
“Because Jin-hyung isn’t…” Yoongi grimaces, jaw clenching as if he’s being forced to spit the words out. “Our eomma met hyung’s dad when I was 3, a year after she divorced my appa.”
Jimin can’t say he’s surprised, what with the surnames and the differential treatment. “I see.”
“I don’t know what her deal is, but she always tells me he enjoyed going to her concerts. Music was the thing that brought them together,” Yoongi continues. “But…” He shakes his head and closes his eyes.
“You don’t have to tell me everything,” Jimin assures, heart twisting.
He reaches for one of Yoongi’s hands tucked underneath his head and strokes one thumb over his knuckles in soothing circles.
Yoongi’s eyelids flutter open. He sighs again. “Long story short, shit happened and she couldn’t continue her singing career, so now it’s up to me.”
“It’s /not/ up to you,” Jimin corrects sternly with a shake of his head. It’s not fair! “She shouldn’t be putting that kind of burden on you, can’t you have your own life, hyung?”
Yoongi gives him a pointed look, and Jimin thinks—
They’re both in pretty similar situations.
“Okay, point taken,” Jimin accedes, mind flashing back to the countless number of times his own mother had to rely on him to take care of Jihyun, practically helping to raise him. Even back when his dad was around, they’d both depended heavily on Jimin’s help on adult matters.
Thumb still carressing the back of Yoongi’s hand, Jimin mutters, “I wish she’d stop punishing you for being human, though.”
Yoongi’s hand goes still in his grip, before enclosing Jimin’s and pressing it to the space on the bed between them, so that their hands now overlap.
“Korea Uni,” Yoongi says, eyes resting on Jimin’s.
“Not that it’s a concrete plan, but I was thinking of Korea Uni, if ever I don’t end up going to Seoul Arts.”
Jimin’s mouth curves up slowly. He doesn’t know how he’ll manage it, but… “Then I’ll follow you there, too.”
“You’re not obligated to,” Yoongi says. “I’m just saying. Didn’t you want to be a firefighter when you grow up?”
“Me?” Jimin points to himself. “Since when?”
Keeping their hands glued, Yoongi raises his other hand to rap his knuckles against’s Jimin’s forehead. “Your letters.”
Jimin snickers, ducking his head. When he looks up again, it hits him belatedly that Yoongi’s face seems to be much closer now than it was moments ago. Huh. Perhaps he shifted closer while giggling just now. “Aw, man. That was a childhood fantasy! It holds no weight now, hyung!”
Yoongi chuckles. This close to him, Jimin can actually feel the vibrations emanating from his penpal’s chest, quaking the very air between them. “So what’s next for you? Got any new dreams?”
Jimin shrugs. “Like I said, I haven’t planned yet. So, no dream. Does that make sense?”
Yoongi nods, lips pursed like he’s giving his answer some deep consideration. “No dream is fine, too. I don’t think adults realize how much we don’t have time for dreams these days. Sometimes, I just wanna get through the week, you know?”
“Adults aren’t shit.”
Jimin chortles quietly, a yawn working its way out of his mouth just as he scoots over to cross the last bit of distance between him and Yoongi, ending up on Yoongi’s pillow. Hooking his chin over the crook of his hyung’s shoulder, Jimin says, “Let’s run together.“
Jimin laughs and smacks Yoongi’s arm lightly. “I don’t mean it literally. I mean it as in, I’ll help push you when you slow down, as long as you promise to help push me, too.”
Something about Yoongi’s easy calmness makes him want to trust him, and go through adulthood together.
Yoongi lets out a soft hiss that sounds like a scoff, but replies, “Sounds good.”
Jimin smiles, eyes drooping closed. “Good.”
“I’m about to fall off my bed again.”
Jimin groans, then rolls back to the right side to make space for Yoongi.
Chuckling breathlessly, Yoongi shifts inwards until their hips bump, then does the one thing that leaves Jimin thunderstruck: he curls an arm around Jimin’s shoulders and pulls him closer until his face is smooshed into the crook of his neck.
“Eh- hyung, oh? Ehh?” Jimin panics.
He recoils, eyes round and pulse galloping like a horse on steroids.
Yoongi lifts one eyebrow. “You don’t want to? I was guessing that’s what you’ve been trying to do all night.”
“It’s not that I don’t wanna- it’s just.” Jimin licks his lower lip. “You’re okay with cuddling?!”
Yoongi blinks kittenishly. “I don’t remember ever saying I’m not…”
Jimin gapes at him. But of course. He’d taken one look at Yoongi’s reserved demeanor, matched it with ‘soxial anxiety’ and immediately assumed he’d be touch-averse. “It’s okay if I hug you?”
“Unless you don’t?”
Jimin squeaks and immediately crowds Yoongi’s space, throwing one arm and over him and giving Yoongi’s midriff a long squeeze. “No! We cuddle, we cuddle! Hyung, you have NO idea how much I’ve been trying to stop myself. I love hugs, you know? You can hold me back, too. C’mon.”
Yoongi’s breath stutters, spine going stuff, but to Jimin’s delight, his penpal relaxes and shifts so that their legs are entangled, too. “Huh. Cool. You’re not a bad hugger, Park Jimin.”
Jimin’s eyes crinkle into crescents. Then something silvery & shiny catches his attention.
He glances down at a triangular pendant hanging from a chain around Yoongi’s neck. It was concealed under his hoodie before he took it off earlier, and only now is Jimin getting a closeup of it. His fingers rest against Yoongi’s sternum to fiddle with the pendant. “What’s this?”
Yoongi yawns, follows his downward gaze. “Ah. This?” His own hand comes up to fold around Jimin’s smaller, chubby fingers, then guides Jimin’s hand to the moonlight to inspect the pendant. “Family heirloom. Our harabeoji was a bit of a rockstar, in his youth. There 2 of this.”
Jimin frowns and hums. “But you’re only wearing one.”
“The other belonged to my halmeoni. That’s how”—Yoongri grins mid-sentence—“that’s how harabeoji proposed to her, after he came back from the war.”
“Heol,” Jimin breathes, turning the pendant over in his hand. “So cool.”
A new paralyzing thought strikes him, then—if this is a family engagement heirloom, and it comes as a pair, does that mean… Yoongi will one day hand over the other necklace to the girl he’ll marry?
Jimin’s inner green-eyed snake can’t help but hiss-hiss at the prospect.
“You want it?” Yoongi mutters, grinning. His eyes flash with mirth that has Jimin scowling and smacking the pendant back to his chest.
“I’m afraid you need to upgrade your sense of humor, hyung.”
Yoongi chuckles, tucking the chain under his sweatshirt and ruffling Jimin’s hair.
Jimin melts back into his side, stifling another yawn. How is Yoongi’s hoodie so warm and comfy? “I’m sorry for barging in so suddenly tonight. I’m causing trouble and I know it. But thank you for not turning me away even when we just had a fight.”
Yoongi hums. “Anytime.”
“Why is your hoodie so comfy?”
“It’s my favorite. It has my vibes.”
“Hyung, what if I snore?”
“I’ll snore louder and outdo you.”
“I’m glad you’re my friend.”
“I’m happy you’re you.”
Jimin yawns one last time, eyelids weighing like bricks. “Yoongi-hyung…”
“Mmm?” Yoongi’s voice is barely above a gravelly sound now.
“I don’t wanna go,” Jimin murmurs into Yoongi’s sweater. The air is quiet.
By the time Yoongi mumbles an answer, Jimin is already dead asleep.
Jimin slowly wakes to the sound of sizzling and the smell of something savory wafting in the air. He stirs with a groan and opens his eyes, only to be met with a plain white ceiling. It looks like the roof is back over the glass paneling.
He’s alone in bed. Sitting up, he yawns.
Jimin shuffles out of bed and makes his way downstairs, where he finds Seokjin and Yoongi in the kitchen, their backs facing him. They don’t seem to have heard nor noticed Jimin’s presence, so he quietly takes a seat at the dining table and watches the two hyungs cook.
At first glance, he never would’ve guessed that the two are not blood-related, what with the way they treat each other as though they’ve been bullying the other since their diaper days. Jimin is used to Yoongi taking up the hyung role. Seeing him dogging after Seokjin? Adorable.
Whe waiting, he catches snippets of the brothers’ conversation.
“…unless you’re really sure how you feel?” Seokjin murmurs.
Yoongi shrugs. “…know what I think… gonna try.”
“You do that.”
“It’s thanks to that idiot,” Yoongi says. “…source of courage.”
“First love, huh?”
“Whose first love?” Jimin blurts without thinking twice, making the two brothers jump.
Seokjin almost drops the knife he’s holding, while Yoongi’s head immediately whips around, eyes wide.
“Jiminie. How- how long have you been here?” he stammers, hand around a pan of eggs.
Jimin shrugs. “A few minutes? I just came down. Anyway, don’t dodge my question. Whose first love?”
“Oh my, my, my,” Seokjin tuts, shaking his head. “Were you /eavesdropping/ on your elders?“
Jimin gasps, his cheeks warming. “No! I didn’t mean to listen in, I swear.”
“Huh.” Seokjin turns back around and eyes the pot of boiling broth on the stove. “In that case, come try the egg soup. It’s a little close to lunchtime, so we’ll have brunch instead.”
Happy to oblige to EatJin’s request, Jimin bolts out of his chair and takes on the Taster role.
As he has quickly come to learn since last night, every dish created by Yoongi seems to have been sprinkled with magic. The egg soup is fantastic, and so is the omurice that Seokjin makes. While eating together, Jimin glances at his phone—a gesture that doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Aren’t you going to turn it on?” Yoongi asks, casting him a sidelong look.
Jimin hesitates. On one hand, he probably should—now that he is somewhat calmer, the fear of having to be responsible for his actions is creeping up on him. But at the same time…
“Just a while more.”
Call it gut instinct, call it intuition—Jimin has a nagging feeling that this illusion of peace will shatter the moment he switches on his mobile device and returns to his daunting reality. He smiles humorless at the two brothers. “I’ll leave. For now, can’t I stay a bit longer?”
Seokjin and Yoongi exchange loaded glances, but then respond with slow nods. A small knot of tension loosens in Jimin’s chest.
“Eat more,” Seokjin urges, pushing more soup towards him. “Yoongi should bring you around town today. Right, bro?”
Yoongi blinks, then shrugs. “Sure.”
After breakfast, Jimin is told to get ready for a ‘casual day out’ with Yoongi, which gets him all jittery enough to lift his spirits from the anticipatory dread of facing the music. After changing into a pullover w/ a sweaterpaws-inducing baby blue cardigan, he heads downstairs.
He finds Seokjin in the living room, playing Mario Kart, eyes glued to their widescreen television.
“Yoongi’s still showering?” he asks.
“He will probably take a bit longer. It might not look like it, but my bro’s picky with how he looks,” Seokjin says, tone blasé.
Which is why Jimin takes his liberties with the time spent waiting. He asks Seokjin for permission to roam about the front porch and the backyard (a whole backyard!) Seokjin points to a glass door adjacent to the kitchen, and Jimin steps outside.
He emerges into a bright garden.
Oranges and yellows. They fill his vision—beds of marigolds sprouting every area where there is soil. Jimin feels like…
He feels like an emoji, the standing man emoji where he can do nothing else but stare frozen, breath stolen from his lungs. His heart is a hot air balloon.
“A sight for sore eyes, no?” a voice from behind him pipes up, amused.
Jimin turns around and finds Seokjin leaning against the doorframe, arms folded. He nods to the flowerbeds. “They’re at their last hurrah. They’ll die at the first frost. Count yourself lucky you saw them.”
Jimin opens his mouth to speak and realizes his voice has gone hoarse with an inexplicable emotion. “Did… did Yoongi-hyung plant these?”
“Practically each year. He has a thing for them. I always wondered why and assumed it’s ‘cause they look like tangerines and he loves those.”
Jimin nods. “Ahh. No wonder.” He feigns a chuckle, then wonders why that bit of information somehow sinks his heart a little. “Did he ever say why?”
Seokjin’s eyes bore into his, a smile playing at his lips. He shrugs nonchalantly. “You tell me. Why do you think so, Park Jimin?”
Jimin sucks in a slow breath, unable to tell apart the myriad of emotions that flood him, clouding his judgment. On one hand, there’s a sense of thrill that’s just waiting to spring forth and claim him, an urge to rejoice.
On the other hand, there’s dread. But why?
As a young child and now well into his teenage years, Jimin has learned an important part of his core identity: he is drawn to security and stability. Craves it even.
That Yoongi is a solace for him as a friend is more than enough.
To consider him as anything more? Dangerous!
“By the way, isn’t your nickname ‘marigold’ or something?” Seokjin continues, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Wow. How interesting.”
Jimin purses his lips, moved & perplexed at the same time. “I—“
“Jimin?” Yoongi’s voice sounds from the doorway. Then he appears next to Seokjin.
Jimin turns his back to the marigolds to face his penpal, then immediately regrets it.
Because Yoongi,dressed in a grey hoodie and a bottlecap-blue beanie, looks fresh and all shades of cool. Jimin’s mouth falls open.
“Nice outfit, hyung.”
There it is again—the urge to /hug/.
Yoongi smirks his way, but then directs a stern, almost scalded look at his older brother. “Hyung, why’d you let him into the backyard…”
Seokjin makes a noise of affront. “Heol. Then did you want me to gatekeep your tangerine garden from him?”
Yoongi’s neck turns scarlet.
Jimin forces out a sharp bark of laughter. “Tangerine garden! Haha. Hah. Good one! I guess Yoongi-hyung loves them that much that he keeps reminders of them in your garden.”
He didn’t mean for it to come out as double-layered, but as soon as the words leave his mouth, he pauses.
He mentally slaps himself, stifling the urge to bury himself his very own hole in the soil and join the flowering marigolds. What’s gotten into him?
It’s as if his mind is a radio that’s been airing one channel for ages, but has now gotten tuned to a different, scarier channel.
“Yeah, of course!” Seokjin adds boisterously, clapping Yoongi in the back. “Our Yoongichi here’s intensely fond of tangerines. And marigolds. Aren’t you, bro?”
Yoongi shrugs off Seokjin’s arm and ducks away to grab Jimin by the elbow. “Knock it off, seriously.”
With a grunt, Yoongi steers Jimin back inside the house and makes a beeline for the front door. “We’re heading out now.”
“Go forth and be free. I’ll finally have the house to myself,” calls out Seokjin, shooing them off. “Have a good date—er, day, you two! Hohooo.”
Yoongi groans and shakes his head as they march out the front porch together. “Ignore him. He says weird shit sometimes.”
But Jimin doesn’t even think he has the capacity to listen to anything more than his own heartbeat at the moment.
Yoongi’s hand is still holding his elbow.
Jimin glances down at Yoongi’s pretty white knuckles, and suppresses the urge to weep right then and there.
What is so wrong with him so suddenly? Last night he’d been holding hands and even cuddling with the guy, and today he’s so antsy over an elbow grip? It makes zero sense!
And he has nothing to compare these inclinations with. Not even his period of dating Jeongyeon made him feel so… self-conscious and hyperaware of the other person. From proximity to touch to physical appearance, it’s as if a giant Yoongi shaped blight has invaded Jimin’s vision.
He shakes his head. Why was he even thinking of comparing Yoongi to Jeongyeon, of all people? It’s not as if he’d date… date his one and only penpal—
Jimin trips over a small dip in the uneven pavement. He keeps over, off-balance, and would’ve face-planted if not for Yoongi.
One hand grabs Jimin by the arm and guides him to stand upright. At the same time, Yoongi’s rough drawl carries over to the shell of Jimin’s ear.
“Careful. You good?”
Jimin sucks in a breath, face going ashen as he stares into Yoongi’s inky dark eyes. He scuttles backwards.
“I’m not—!” Jimin grits out skittishly, feeling cornered, and consequently mortified by his incoherence. Yet he can’t seem to help it. “I don’t— I can walk fine alone.”
Yoongi’s brows furrow together. He slowly withdraws with a nod. “OK…?”
Jimin swallows heavily and walks on.
He attempts a few steadying breaths, shoving his hands into his cardigan pockets. Not another word is spoken between them while they wait for the bus. Jimin hates it. He’s never felt so stuffy and uncomfy with Yoongi before, so why now?
He can’t even look at Yoongi.
They hop aboard a bus that would take them to the heart of the central town, and Jimin’s vision zeroes in in the last two empty seats at the back, next to each other.
He halts by the bus doors.
Yoongi nudges him from behind. “Go on.”
“Ah. Right.” Jimin heads towards the back.
Gingerly, he slides into the innermost seat, then refrains from flinching when Yoongi takes the seat beside him and their arms touch. Jimin glances at the spot where their clothes meet. If Yoongi’s touch was a color it would be flame-red, and this isn’t even bare skin.
The bus begins to move. Jimin stubbornly looks out the window, desparate for any form of distraction from the poison spreading through his mind.
A short while later, Yoongi clears his throat. “Are you- are sure you’re okay?”
“Hm?” Jimin resolutely keeps his gaze pinned outside.
“You look constipated.”
Now /that/ pulls Jimin out of his spiraling funk, if only by a fraction. He frowns and turns his head. “What?”
Yoongi’s features visibly relax. “Finally, you’re looking at me.”
Jimin blinks owlishly, then ducks his head. “What- what do you want…?”
Yoongi rolls his shoulders back and shifts in his seat. “Are you worried that you eomma will punish you terribly?”
Well, there’s that of course, Jimin thinks, but he’s surprised to realize that his family situation isn’t even at the forefront of his attention at the moment.
Even more surprising is how he can’t seem to bring himself to voice out what’s really bothering him.
How do you tell your childhood friend that sitting next to them on the bus sends your mind haywire?
So Jimin settles for a defeated shrug, unable to be honest.
“Don’t worry too much,” Yoongi reassures in his even, gentle tone. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
Jimin feigns a chuckle.
“Anyway. Did… did Jin-hyung say anything strange to you?”
Jimin casts him a sidelong glance—the only thing he can manage right then—and huffs. “Not really.”
Yoongi nods, eyes downcasts, and seems to shrink into himself. “Okay.”
Jimin glances at him again. There’s a crease forming in the space between his eyebrows, his mouth downturned. Yoongi snags his teeth over his upper lip and opens his mouth, then closes it again.
“What is it?” This time, it’s Jimin’s turn to ask. “Don’t frown so much.”
Yoongi crosses his arms. “Do you- do you wanna just go home?”
“If you’re that worried, we can just head back to my house, pick up your stuff and I’ll send you back to Busan—“
“Nooo,” Jimin says.
Yoongi opens his mouth to argue, so in his rising panic, Jimin’s mind grapples for the bare minimum topic to bring up.
Yoongi pauses, the concern in his eyes turning to confusion, then understanding. “Oh?”
“You got a puppy right?”
“Nah. We just fostered him.”
“Oh.” Jimin nods, tongue twisting itself. This is the worst.
“Yeah.” Yoongi nods too, and the fog of doubt returns to his eyes.
They fall quiet, but unlike the comfortable silences that they’ve come to share, Jimin feels dread pulling at his gut, causing him to feel restless.
The air between them is so thick with tension he can imagine cutting it with a knife. Licking his lips, Jiming folds his arms to look down at his lap.
This has never happened before over the course of their friendship. It’s like all competency at socializing suddenly flees him.
“I’m sorry,” Yoongi blurts out of the blue, startling him. Jimin looks at him, eyebrows rising. “If I said anything that made you feel weird. Or if the egg soup sucked. I- I’m sorry, I don’t know what made you mad—“
“I’m not mad,” Jimin says, suppressing a sigh.
He’s more than compelled to bury his head in his hands and groan in frustration, but what kind of message would that be sending to Yoongi?
Regardless of his inner turmoil, Jimin can’t afford to upset the person who’s welcomed him so warmly in his home in the middle of the night.
So Jimin uncrosses his arms and plasters a placid smile on his face. “Trust me, I’m not mad. You’re right. I’m just… anxious about this whole thing, I guess.” He decides to give another shade of the truth—he’s not exactly lying, this way. “I’m nervous because I’m a bad son.”
The concern creasing Yoongi’s eyebrows smoothen with realization. He sits up straighter, shaking his head. “Just because you have troubling behavior doesn’t mean you’re problematic.”
Jimin arches an eyebrow.
“Mistakes can be corrected and learned from.”
“So this is a mistake?”
Yoongi’s mouth closes and he scratches the back of his head, looking perplexed. “I wouldn’t call it a /mistake/. But we both know it’s impulsive.”
Jimin’s lower lip juts out.
“Don’t give me that look, Jiminie. It’s not like I’m nagging or chasing you out. I’m just saying.”
“Just say I’m a burden and goooo,” Jimin says half-jokingly.
Yoongi gives him a flat stare. “If you believe that, then I’m disappointed.”
“What? It’s not like I’m lying. I’m causing trouble because I’m a kid, like you said—“
“Jimin-ah,” Yoongi murmurs. “You are not a burden.”
And there it is again—a breathless, tightening sensation that has Jimin clenching his fingers into fists just so he doesn’t embarrass himself further by doing more impulsive things like… like maybe cup Yoongi’s cheeks and pepper his face with smooches—
Jimin’s head snaps away.
“Sorry,” he mutters, forcing his gaze to remain anywhere but Yoongi’s direction. “I’m being pissy again.”
Yoongi huffs, and Jimin sure hopes it’s amusement he hears in that chuckle that follows. “Nothing I’m not used to. Anyway, this is our stop. Let’s go.”
They alight the bus.
As they step out into the clear autumn day, Jimin makes a mental note to calm down and just try to enjoy this day. After all, this is the Daegu visit he’d been anticipating, and nothing unnecessary should sway him from having fun.
He walks through town central beside Yoongi.
The good thing about being surrounded by crowds is that it takes Jimin’s mind off the person next to him, even if just for a bit. The Daegu twang from chatter all around fills his ears as theh zip in and out of different sightseeing areas. Yoongi brings him to a park and a mall.
For lunch they dine at a café, and even though Jimin offers to split the bill, Yoongi just shakes his head and refuses to let him touch it. Now that Jimin is more relaxed he finds it easier to make casual chat over the table, and he even manages to slip in a joke or two.
Except there’s something different. Jimin can’t pinpoint it, but he’s aware of how his brain’s gears have seemed to begin turning in another direction.
For the first time, he’s way too conscious about the way he chews food, his body posture, even the volume of his laughter.
It’s like his nerve-endings are standing on end, and inside him is an Alternate Jimin who is hungry for attention and upset when deprived of it, only to preen like a peacock every time Yoongi’s gaze brushes past him. It’s torturous.
He’s always loved attention, but not this way.
On the outside he is Park Jimin, bubbly giggler and fun friend.
But mentally he is revising every single moment he’s shared with Yoongi in the past, wondering how many times he’s made a fool out of himself in front of the guy.
Mid-way through lunch, Jimin sees a spot of carbonara cream on Yoongi’s upper lip, and his vision goes hawk-eyed on the erroneous stain until he can’t seem to focus on anything else—
“Earth to Park Jimin. Hello?” Yoongi waves a hand in front of him. “You’re zoning out.”
Jimin snaps out of his reverie, although his eyes can’t keep straying to Yoongi’s mouth. He’s always been aware of how pink they are… mauve even… but now there’s an added observation: they look super soft. Jimin wonders if they feel like velvet.
“You have cream on your mouth.”
“Oh.” Yoongi’s hands fumble for a napkin, only to realize that he’s used up his spare ones. The dispenser is closer to Jimin, so he takes it upon himself to yank one out and…
Before he can think twice, he leans across the table and wipes Yoongi’s upper lip, heart skipping.
They both freeze at the same time. Yoongi stares at him, wide-eyed. Meanwhile, all manner of respiration seems to have left Jimin’s lungs. His arm remains stretched between them, suspended mid-air, fingers still pressed to Yoongi’s mouth.
Jimin drops the napkin.
Yoongi clears his throat and huffs out an amused noise.
Jimin yanks his hands down to his lap, staring at his right fingers as though they’ve been torched. His pulse is cha cha cha-ing and doing triple flips. If heartbeats were animals his would be a frog, all skippy-hoppy.
“There’s a frog in my chest,” he mutters under his breath, senses hyperaware once more. It’s odd, the way all of his five senses seem to have tuned up, as if a blanket that’s been muffling his capacities just got lifted and he’s finally hearing and seeing too many things at once.
“What?” Yoongi prompts, resuming his meal but keeping his eyes trained on Jimin’s face.
“I said, pasta is the best.” Jimin shoves a mouthful and chews slowly, willing his heart to follow suit. He knows he’s still young, so he shouldn’t worry about his blood pressure, but still.
Yoongi flashes a crooked smile. “Welcome to Daegu, everything’s better.”
“Except the seafood,” Jimin argues, setting aside his chaotic internal panic for a moment. “Busan’s seafood is always the freshest.”
“That’s a given. You live in a port city.”
/Not for long/, he thinks.
The thought sends a new wave of apprehension coursing through Jimin. If he won’t be in South Korea for long, then that means he won’t get to find out what these strange new realizations about Yoongi mean, would he?
This worry accompanies him all throughout lunch until they leave.
It doesn’t leave Jimin’s mind, although it gets pushed to the back burner when, closer to sunset, Yoongi suggests visiting an arcade, to which Jimin agrees. He loves arcades and happens to be a pro at games, courtesy of Jungkook’s help.
The rest of the afternoon blurs into a multitude of purple-teal-yellow neon LED lights and the cheers of fellow arcade patrons. Jimin slays the shooting games while Yoongi beats him in the racing consoles. Jimin makes up for defeat at Dance Dance Revolution using BTZ’s singles.
“Yah, how could you memorize the steps to Permission To Sing that fast?” Yoongi asks, his bangs matted with sweat when he removes his beanie.
Jimin shrugs cheekily. “I’m a pro! Wanna try Life Goes Off next?”
Yoongi makes a face, but waves a ‘yes’. “Whatever makes you happy.”
Like the last few rounds, Jimin scores perfectly, much to Yoongi’s mock annoyance. After ‘Life Goes Off’, his penpal requets a break, so they walk around until Jimin spots a crane machine with little plushie keychains inside.
He approaches it, fixated on a brown poodle keychain.
He presses his nose against the glass, calculating the distance between the poodle keychain and the crane machine’s hole.
“What, what, what?” Yoongi sidles up to the space beside Jimin.
Jimin points at the poodle. “I’m winning that one for you. Wait and see.”
Jimin tilts his head back to flash his most smug look at Yoongi. “You’re only talking to Busan’s No. 1 Crane Whisperer, Park Jimin.” He flexes his fingers and inserts tokens into the slot. Music emanates from the machine, and the claw starts to move when he nudges the toggle.
Once he’s certain he had calculated the most precise position, Jimin presses the ‘grab’ button & watches gleefully as the claw starts to sink.
“Woooh,” Yoongi says, craning his neck to see the progress.
The claw tightens around the poodle keychain and rises, dragging it along.
But at the last moment, the poodle dislodges from the claw and plummets back into the sea of other keychains, much to his dismay.
“Aigoo, and that’s one loss for Park Jimin,” Yoongi says a la sports commentary style. “One point for the machine! Who will win?”
“Me,” Jimin grits.
He slots in more tokens and tries again, only to fail this round as well. Sad trumpet music sounds from the machine. With a growl, Jimin curls his hands into fists and lightly taps the glass in a demonstration of repressed frustration.
“You don’t have to win it,” says Yoongi.
“I’m going to,” Jimin declares firmly.
“Maybe this is your chance to admit that Busan claw machines are easier,” Yoongi taunts, waggling his eyebrows. “Daegu’s built different.”
“Daegu can kiss my ass after I prove you wrong,” Jimin says. One last round. He’ll get it this time.
He’s so hyperfocused on the claw that he completely misses the way Yoongi regards him with twinkling eyes and a crooked smile, head tilted.
When at last the claw machine hooks the curve of poodle’s metal keyring and delivers it to the hole, Jimin jumps and pumps the air. “Yes!”
He bends down to collect the brown chicken-looking dog plushie and waves it in the air victoriously. “See! I got it! What did I tell you, hyung?”
Yoongi claps without energy. “Wow. Amazing. Swag. Fantastic job.”
Jimin is so proud he can’t even care about the sarcasm. “Here.”
He tosses the keychain at Yoongi, who catches it with deft hands. “That’s Min Holly!”
Yoongi sends him a bemused look. “Yeah?”
Jimin winks at him. “For the puppy you couldn’t have.”
Perhaps it’s a shift in lighting, but he could have sworn Yoongi’s features softened.
“Not to be ungrateful, but do enlighten me. Why are you giving it to me?” Yoongi says as they amble out of the noisy arcade. “You could keep it for yourself.”
Jimin waves dismissively. “Take it as a token of appreciation. For um, for everything.”
This much, he can do.
Yoongi raises an eyebrow and holds the poodle keychain out as if to inspect. “Huh. I’ll accept it as due diligence.” He ruffles Jimin’s hair as they make their way towards the bus stop. The autumn night is cooler than usual. But Jimin’s skin feels warm.
“What’s due diligence?”
Yoongi hums for a long moment. “If I were to simplify it, the way our abeoji did, it’s like—it’s like processing available information before making a big decision, or commitment.” He glances at Jimin. “Make sense?”
Yoongi winks at him. Jimin bites his lower lip.
They board the bus and sit together again. This time, there’s a more comfortable atmosphere between them as they make quiet conversation, although a huge part of Jimin is still keeping score of how he’s behaving in front of Yoongi. Just in case.
(He just doesn’t know what case.)
All too soon, they’re walking through Yoongi’s fancy downtown neighborhood, and their two-storey, white-painted house with tinted windows loom into view. Jimin wishes there was a way to slow down time, but before he knows it they’re shuffling back inside the house.
“Hey, hey. How was your little day out?” Seokjin asks from where he’s still gaming in front of the TV.
Jimin shoots a polite smile his way. “It was fun. I beat hyung in DDR.”
Yoongi snorts and hooks a thumb at him. “Jimin can’t race to save his life.”
“We have our talents.”
“Ha,” Seokjin says no committally, then adds, “So how’s Daegu, Jimin? Feels like home, no? Maybe your family should consider moving in. You’ll have nice neighbors with pretty gardens like us.”
“Hyung,” Yoongi says in a warning tone.
The garden. The marigold beds. Jimin flushes.
He curls his hands into his fists and stuffs them into his pockets. “I’ll… I’ll go get my things.” Without another word, he scampers up the stairs to gather his belongings.
There isn’t much to pack—he’d only brought enough for a single night rendezvous, after all.
Once his duffel bag is all zipped and ready, he grabs his phone—still turned off—and perches on the edge of Yoongi’s bed, the force of his anxiety physically weighing him down.
He’s ignored life for a day. As he looks down at the black screen, guilt claws at his stomach.
A knock makes his jump. “Jiminie?” Yoongi appears by the open doorway. “You… you ready?”
“Yeah, but I…” Jimin brandishes his phone. “I haven’t checked my phone at all since yesterday.”
Yoongi’s expression grows apprehensive but he walks in. “You can hold my hand and check.”
He sits next to Jimin and holds out his right hand. Jimin only considers it for a moment, before linking his left. Yoongi is a friend, and friends can hold hands without it being weird!
Holding his breath, he switches his phone on. The notifications flood the screen at once.
[23 new text messages]
It seems that different people have been trying to contact him since last night, with his mother being the most frequent recipient. However, the attempts to reach him fizzle out by around noon.
Yoongi squeezes his hand. “Breathe.”
Jimin obliges, letting out a stuttering breath. “I feel sick.”
“Understandable. I’d be ill too if I opened my phone to that many people.”
Biting his lower lip, Jimin picks out inbox messages from the contacts he feels least anxious about reading, starting with Jungkook’s.
[aspiring dead body collector]
ur eomma is looking for u
how could u leave me D:
pls i take back what i said about dead bodies i never meant for one to be yours
Jimin blinks at the tirade of messages.
[aspiring dead body collector]
namjoon hyung told me
i hate u
Jimin tips his head back with a groan, then opens Namjoon’s texts.
[chicken drumstick thighs hyung]
there’s been a ruckus in the morning
care to share your whereabouts, bro?
a kim seokjin called and things are calmer
i told your eomma
but she’s worried sick
gl stay safe
The rest of the messages are from Mrs. Park and Jihyun, which Jimin pointedly avoids opening, not because he doesn’t want to read them, but…well, just because. He shoves his phone into Yoongi’s hand.
“Read them aloud for me, hyung,” he request, collapsing face-first to the bed.
“You sure?” Yoongi asks. Jimin nods without looking, and cringes inwardly when Yoongi starts reciting the messages from his family.
The texts from his eomma vary from worried, to desparate, to empty threats that Jimin knows won’t happen, but confirm his fears: he’s in deep shit.
“‘If you come home before nightfall, you are grounded for a week’,” Yoongi reads out loud, his voice ironically soothing as opposed to the content he’s saying. “‘Next message: Appa’s here. Come home soon’.”
Jimin’s head snaps up.
His father is back?
This is huge.
Jimin’s wide eyes graze Yoongi’s, and it’s an affirmation of what he’s already thinking: that this could be a game changer, that there is hope to be had. He scrambles to his feet and slings his duffel bag over his shoulder.
Yoongi hands him back his phone. “Ready to go?”
Standing, Yoongi stretches out a hand. Jimin stares at it for several heartbeats, then grasps it with a deep breath.
Together, they hurry downstairs. Jimin bids Seokjin a hasty farewell and thanks for the stay, and then the two of them are back outdoors once more, into the night.
The autumn chill sinks into Jimin’s bones as they wait at the bus stop, but he can’t bring himself to care right now. There is a mix of anticipation at homecoming and the bittersweet feeling of having to leave Yoongi behind. And to think that the guy in question is right here.
Jimin turns to face him now, memorizing the way his tousled hair sticks out against the warm streetlights, like a dandelion. Commits to memory that blue beanie, the way his hoodie seems to swallows his frame despite his broad shoulders.
“What? Why are you staring at me?”
Jimin shakes his head, then shrugs. “Just because. Just in case.”
Yoongi narrows his eyes at him, a muscle ticking along his jaw. “If you end up moving to Australia, we’ll keep in touch, right?”
“That’s an ‘if’,” Jimin states. “But if my parents get back together, I’ll stay!”
“Promise me, though,” Yoongi mumbles, scuffing the toe of his boots against the gravel. “We’ll still be… we’ll stay… friends.”
Jimin swallows heavily. If his heart is a frog, then that frog is in tears. He nods and looks up at the sky. “Of course we’ll still be friends. Pabo.”
Yoongi scoffs, shifting his weight from one foot to another. He steps back and tips his head to one side, eyes trained on Jimin, then nods to himself.
It makes Jimin self-conscious, sending heat rising to his cheeks. “Quit that.”
Yoongi makes a face at him and ruffles his hair.
Before Yoongi can drop his hand, Jimin grabs it from the top of his head. They pause, then Jimin lowers Yoongi’s hand until they meet in the middle and intertwine. It’s warm.
Yoongi has always been such a warm-hearted person.
It’s then that Jimin realizes: /I don’t want to go./
But more than that, he doesn’t want to go to the terminal with Yoongi, only to leave him behind. As someone who’s been in those shoes back when he had to send Yoongi off from Busan, Jimin doesn’t want him to experience the same thing.
“Don’t send me off at the the terminal.”
Yoongi turns to him sharply, alarmed.
“Just until here.” There is a giant brick rising up his throat. Jimin swallows, trying to force it down, but all he feels next is a stinging at the back of his eyes. “This bus stop’s good enough.”
An empty bus stop, with a lonely lamppost.
Yoongi falls quiet. Then nods, fingers squeezing Jimin’s.
Jimin strokes a thumb over the scars on his knuckles, praying to the autumn winds to be gentle on Yoongi’s walk back to their house, because then Jimin won’t be there to hold his hand, or walk beside him.
2 bright lights signalling the bus’ arrival turn into the street, and Jimin’s heart quickens to an erratic pace. The panic that grips him is a shock, and only when he turns to look at Yoongi’s face does he truly, finally realize for the first time—
Yoongi isn’t his mentor.
Squinting at the approaching bus, Yoongi tugs Jimin closer by the wrist, prompting them to face each other. “Jimin-ah.”
Jimin can’t find any words, paralyzed by this epiphany. Crap. Crap!
Yoongi ducks his head, lifting a chain from around his neck. A guitar pick pendant glints.
He steps closer to fasten the necklace over Jimin’s nape. “I have nothing else.”
It’s as if Jimin’s gone mute, unable to activate his tongue. The thoughts in his head are a mish-mash of questions and declarations that won’t be made.
Yoongi steps back. “Trade for the keychain.”
There is water gathering at Jimin’s eyes as he lets out a shuddering exhale, unable to ignore tha ache puncturing his ribs, because this time he knows, he understands.
This is the boy who grew a garden in his name, who shared his personal sky with him.
The bus slows to a halt.
The pendant is solid against’s Jimn’s sternum, & his knees go weak. Yoongi’s pupils are dilated—earnest, trusting.
What was it that Namjoon said?
/Have you ever considered kissing Yoongi?/
Jimin doesn’t know. But he’ll never know if he doesn’t try, and this is his last chance.
Yoongi explained the importance of assessing information before making a decision, didn’t he?
“Hyung,” says Jimin, heart thudding.
“Hm?” The streetlights cast an amber hue over Yoongi’s eyelashes.
“This is due diligence.”
Then he steps forward and leans in to kiss Yoongi.
Jimin had always imagined his first kiss to be anticipatory, soft and inviting. This one is anything but. A rushed, chaste smacking of lips a first kiss does not make, but he relishes in the cold yet soft texture of Yoongi’s mouth. Someone yelps in surprise—he can’t tell or care.
Just like that, the tight clutch over his chest loosens, and just like the first time he heard Yoongi’s voice over the phone, Jimin is keenly aware of the slamming of his pulse against the walls of his throat.
The bus horn honks, and Jimin springs away from a wide-eyed Yoongi.
After the adrenaline comes consequence, and with consequence comes confusion. Once again Jimin’s insides feel like they’re being pumped with air, only this time he can’t identify if it’s good or bad except for the general urge to cry.
What has he done?
“So, um. Bye.”
He backs away from Yoongi, inwardly lamenting the loss of warmth from the lack of proximity, and races up the bus’ steps, planting himself firmly on the window so he can catch a glimpse of Yoongi one last time. The bus doors close.
Yoongi stands unmoving.
Jimin waves and smiles.
With foggy glass windowpanes, he can’t quite discern the details of Yoongi’s expression, so the last thing he remembers is a figure in a grey hoodie at a lone bus stop.
As the bus slowly chugs away, Jimin forces himself not to glance back over his shoulder, otherwise he’ll break.
Fighting back hot tears, Jimin leans back against the seat, raising a trembling hand to the silver pendant.
It’s cold to touch.
It’s the only part of Yoongi he can touch now.
Only after the bus turns the street corner does Jimin bend over his knees, sobbing all the way home.
weeee, it ended up being a long update haha!
Feel free to ramble or rant~
Also—I am saving up for a possible semester exchange overseas but am short on cash, so if you could support me on ko-fi, I’ll love you forever thanks!
Dear My Friend: Yoongi’s POV
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He sleeps the entire ride back to his hometown. The next time he comes to, it’s to the sensation of the bus grinding to a stop at the terminal. Jimin rubs his eyes, disoriented, before the force of what he’d just done trickles back into his brain like a leaky faucet he can’t fix.
At that moment, his phone buzzes with a new message.
text me when you’re home safe.
Jimin stifles a mortified groan and forces his feet to stand and clamber down the bus, his insides feeling like they’re spinning in his stomach. He might get cramps at this rate.
He pockets his phone and shoulders through the dwindling late night crowd, unable to check for any more messages. For some reason Jimin doesn’t /want/ to think over what happened, doesn’t want to revisit his stupid actions.
Yoongi hadn’t mentioned it, which means he’s disgusted.
If he’s deliberately not making any mention of how Jimin sneaked in a k-kiss…
Jimin shudders when he realizes: Yoongi doesn’t even /see/ him that way.
He likes girls!
If he’s deliberately ignoring it, then he must not want to talk about it in order not to embarrass Jimin.
A hot flash of regret mixed with shame courses through him. He might puke. That plus the growing anxiety of having to return home for an earful makes Jimin want to curl up and hide.
So he does, by pretending not to have seen the message. With a deep breath, he trudges home.
The lights are on when he approaches their gate. Jimin lets himself in, trying not to tremble, then spots a familiar pair of footwear outside their front door: his appa’s old, beat-up Timberlands. For a long moment he just stands and stares, eyes welling up.
It’s been so long.
Heart in his throat, Jimin pushes the door open. The sound must alert everyone from inside, because the next thing he knows—
“Park Jimin!” his mother’s tart voice barks, sharp but filled with worry. She rushes to the door.
The Jihyun is there, clinging to one of Jimin’s arms.
“Just where have you been, young man? Do you know how worried we were? How could you…” His mother’s nagging falls away. Jimin’s lower lip wobbles when his gaze settles on the bearded man sheepishly rising from the armchair at the corner of the living room.
Jimin’s throat hurts. His eyes hurt. His stomach clenches. “Appa?”
Both Jihyun and his mother pause, heads turning in the direction of the man behind.
Appa looks… different. Tired. His face is gaunt, cheeks hollow and eyes sunken. He blinks back tears as he waves at him. “Hi.”
Jimin thought he’d be exhilarated and mad with relief if he ever saw his father back in the house again. Instead, a tangle of emotions so fierce it makes him emit a sob rises up in him, and he can’t begin to identify them one by one except for the most intense: anger and grief.
“You’re finally home,” he ekes out shakily, barely able to keep a straight face.
His father nods, then looks down. “You, too.”
Jimin’s bag thuds to the floor as his face crumples in tears. He hates the man. He loves this man. He never wants to see him again. He’s been waiting.
The man who was his father for over a decade and a half shuffles uncomfortably where he stands, unable to approach but unable to just watch. Jihyun crowds him and throws both arms around his midriff tightly. His mother rests a hand on his shoulder, eyes pained.
“Have you eaten?”
Steam wafts from the pot of ginseng chicken soup in the middle of the table. As Jimin scoops out his own helping, it occurs to him how much he’s taken this image for granted: his family around the dinner table, sharing a warm meal altogether.
He swallows back a sob.
They eat in silence until his eomma states, “I’m sure you know the gravity of your actions.”
Jimin pretends not to have heard her, busying himself with scooping more broth. Jihyun kicks his shin under the table.
With a reluctant sigh, Jimin nods.
“What do you have to say?”
“I’m sorry,” Jimin bites out in a clipped tone. But is he really sorry for what he did? He can’t quite tell. He does, however, regret making his eomma and friends worry. “For making you worry. But I went to a friend’s place in Daegu, so I was safe.”
“And who was this friend?”
Jimin absently swirls his spoon into his bowl. “Just someone from childhood.”
“Park Jimin.” His mother’s eyes are hawk-like, searching his face. “Tell me who this friend was. I can’t have you running around like a homeless kid. What if he’s in a drug ring—“
Jimin lets his spoon clatter against the bowl’s edge. “He’s Min Yoongi, and he’s given me more support and advice than you ever have, because you’re ALWAYS working, never have time for me or Jihyun—“
“Jimin,” his father warns.
“No, no you don’t get to shush me!” Jimin snaps.
His father blanches, eyes wide with hurt, but screws his mouth shut.
“Min Yoongi,” his eomma repeats, eyebrows knitted close. “Don’t tell me… that boy from your elementary school’s penpal program? You still talk?” She scoffs. “I can’t believe you went to a stranger’s house!”
“Eomma.” Jimin feels heat rising up his neck, the telltale signs of fury making his head feel overloaded. “He’s not a stranger. We’ve been friends for years.”
“Do you even KNOW him? Do I know his parents?” His mother challenges. “How could you?! Did his parents allow your stay?”
Jimin fights back a new legion hot tears. “No, but his hyung knew—“
“That is still very concerning, Park Jimin. You’re only kids, you need parental guidance. How irresponsible could you get?” His mother retorts. She holds out a hand. “Give me your phone. You are grounded.”
“What?” Jimin’s voice climbs an octave in hysteria. “You can’t do that. I need it—“
“Phone. Now.” His mother holds her ground. “Young man, you are grounded for two weeks. That means your only destinations are school, or home. No extracurriculars or trips with friends, either.”
Jimin bites his lower lip so hard he tastes something metallic. He’s seconds away from lashing out, from screaming at their cruel unfairness, but then his eyes latch onto a pale-faced Jihyun sitting across the table, eyes wide and glistening, two hands over his ears.
Jimin gulps back his sharp words and stomps away from the dining room to snatch his phone out of his bag’s side pockets. He grits his teeth so hard his jaw hurts.
With a heavy chest, he all but slams the device into his mother’s outstretched palm. “Good. Take this as a lesson.”
Jimin marches back to his seat with a huff. “If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that running away is the key to putting the family back together.” He sends his appa a pointed glare.
At this, his parents exchange mutual frowns.
“About that,” says his father, tone uncertain.
Years of growing up wary of his parents’ moods have taught Jimin to be hypervigilant. The warning bells in his head begin to ring, and he sits up with a stiff back. He watches his parents dodge the topic.
“You tell them,” says his father.
“You do it. Be responsible for this.”
“Tell us what?” Jimin’s gut is twisting like a basket of snakes. He’s too afraid to breathe.
His father rubs a palm over his face. “I didn’t want to have to do this in front of food.”
“What?” Jimin’s chest is tightening.
“Jimin-ah. Appa and Eomma aren’t getting back together.”
If he were fully honest with himself, it’s not like Jimin didn’t see it coming. While he’d blindly clung onto childish belief, a deeper gut feeling told him otherwise. For the rest of dinner, his parents launch a monologue about “custody” and “start over” and “finalize things”.
Jimin notices how his parents don’t raise a question about who stays with who and where.
Jihyun must be curious about the same thing, because for the first time the young boy raises his head and asks in a small, frightened voice, “C-Can I stay in Busan?”
Jimin fights a sniffle.
Their mother lets out a sigh. “Appa is in no position to take care of you. He has… many scores to settle with some uncles.”
Jihyun’s face falls. “Can hyung and I stay with halmeoni and harabeoji?”
“They can barely take care of their health. So no, not when I have the custody.”
Looking into his little brother’s shattered expression and defeated slouch, for the first time in his life Jimin wishes he were older. If he were of legal age he could take off to a different province and start anew, just the two of them. He could find work and support Jihyun.
But he is just a kid who has no means of getting by, and the avenues are so very limited for people like Jimin, who have no wealth nor strong connections with people who can help them. Teeth clenched, he trudges away from the table to enter his room.
He slams the door.
In the house opposite Jimin’s, a boy with headphones feels a ~shift~ in the air and finally looks up from the video editing software he’s been immersed in. It’s not the first time he’s convinced he might be a clairvoyant.
Jungkook wheels his chair to his window, frowning.
The way their houses are built side by side makes it possible for his and Jimin’s bedroom windows to be directly opposite each other’s. So when Jungkook looks across, ready to nag at Jimin for causing a storm of worry all day, he finds his friend curled up on his bed, head down.
This will not do. This is a crisis.
When Jimin hears a thump at his windowpane, he first dismisses it as one of the naked branches of the tree outside his bedroom rapping against the glass. He ignores it, keeping his head down while he hugs his knees close.
“Go away,” Jimin grumbles.
Irritated, Jimin’s head snaps up. He throws a glare at the window, only for his expression to soften into surprise when he spots Jungkook leaning out and waving from his own bedroom.
/Hyung!/ Jungkook mouths, his figure only half illuminated by the streetlights.
He crawls to his window and pushes it open. /What?/ he mouths back.
Jungkook’s head whips left and right, then disappears from view as his bends over his desk to grab something. When he reappears, there is something in his hand. He tosses it deftly towards Jimin’s window.
It enters his room and lands square on the floor. Jimin picks it up—a heavy eraser with a crumpled note wrapped around it. He lifts the sheet of paper to read Jungkook’s messy scrawl.
/hi bro??? welcome back. are you grounded. HAHAHA/
Jimin rolls his eyes, but his rage melts.
He scribbles a hasty reply into a torn sheet of notebook paper, wraps it around the eraser, then hurls it back at Jungkook’s expectant hands, cupped together in preparation to catch.
/Yea. 2 weeks. No phone. Really pissed./
/shiiiiiit. that bad?/
/yes. appa is here. things are messy. can your family adopt us? haha./
/im not sure ‘cos we are gonna adopt new dogs soon…i need to ask my parents/
Jimin’s eyes mist over as he reads the note. How he wishes it was that simple.
/can you come down to our gate? i got news./
/yep. i can’t leave the house so i’ll stay in./
After Jungkook reads the note, he looks up and sends Jimin two thumbs up. Jimin barges out of his bedroom.
“Where are you going?” asks his mother.
As the ruthless cold of the autumn night hits him square in the face, Jimin burrows deeper into his cardigan. He makes it all the way to the gate, where Jungkook is already standing, two big, doe eyes peering through the gaps.
“What /happened/?” he asks.
Jimin sighs heavily.
“You have to keep it a secret for now, swear by it.”
“I swear,” Jungkoo says solemnly, crossing his heart.
“Appa and Eomma are separating,” Jimin states blankly, a tiredness seeping into his bones.
Jungkook blinks. “Huh.”
“And we’re moving houses.”
Silence. Then, “HUH?”
Jimin nods, unsure how he could have dropped the bomb any better. “Yeah.”
“You’re joking,” Jungkook laments, his eyes wide with denial. He leans closer and wraps both hands around the railings of Jimin’s iron gate. “Hyung. Hyung, you’re not going, right?”
Jimin remains silent.
Jungkook falters. He peppers the tense silent between them with occasional bouts of ‘huhs’ and ‘no ways’, before shaking his head. “But what about our snack runs?”
Jimin’s lips tremble. He shrugs.
“BTZ will have a comeback soon, too. We were supposed to do a dance cover again.”
Jimin sniffles and shakes his head. “I don’t know.”
Jungkook lets out a sharp noise of disbelief. “Buh- but. I don’t get it. We were gonna attend the same high school. You were supposed to be my sunbae. You said you wanted to bully me when I become freshman!”
“I’m sorry, Kook.”
A quiet whine punches out of Jungkook’s mouth, and when Jimin looks up he’s hit with the nostalgic image of exactly how he met his neighbor that first day, several years ago: Jungkook wiping snot from his nose, eyes red.
“That’s so sudden,” Jungkook mutters. “That’s cheating.”
“You should go back and rest,” Jimin says kindly, making sure not to show too much distress. “I’ll send you a note tomorrow or something. It’s not good to be out like this when you’re just wearing your pj’s, Kook-ah. You’ll catch a cold.”
“I don’t want you to go,” Jungkook says.
“I won’t go anywhere soon,” Jimin reassures, reaching through the gate to pinch Jungkook’s cheek.
“When are you moving?”
Jimin’s shoulder droop. “Eomma said winter break, after my semester ends. We have a few more weeks.”
Jungkook’s eyes turn glassy, filled with quiet sadness.
“Where are you moving? Seoul? We can meet on weekends.”
Jimin’s expression darkens. “Australia.”
Jungkook looks absolutely horrified.
“Eiii,” Jimin clucks his tongue and yanks both of Jungkook’s cheeks sideways. “None of that depressed look. Don’t think too much about it.”
Jungkook’s nose scrunches as he sniffles. “It’s not fair.”
“Yah, why are you reacting so sadly!” Jimin feigns a teasing tone. “It’s not like you’re the one affected. Cut it out, bro.”
“I’m not just sad ‘cause I won’t have a neighbor soon. I’m sad for hyung. It’s not fair.”
Jimin takes in a long, stuttering breath to calm the new wave of ache that washes over him. He fakes a snort and ruffles Jungkook’s hair. “Ugh, look at you. So snotty! Clean yourself up, Jeon Jungkook. Go back inside now, leave me alone, I’m sleeeepy.”
Jungkook swats his hand away and ducks out of Jimin’s reach, running back to his front door. “Don’t squish me or I’ll tell your eomma you bully me!”
“I’m just making up for all the years I won’t get to bully you!” Jimin calls out.
“I hate you!”
“Go sleep, stupid.”
(For someone who claims to hate Jimin, he sure makes a lot of effort when, the next morning, Jimin finds a brown paper bag of bungeo-ppang snacks on the brick wall between their gardens.)
Jimin supposes that being grounded DOES help him focus on getting his homework done faster. But once he’s finished with schoolwork, he realizes how reliant he’s become on his phone for entertainment, and communication.
He hasn’t even texted Yoongi yet. It’s the worst.
To keep his idle mind from worrying to much, Jimin plays board games with Jihyun, and then decides to inspect the garden later that afternoon. It’s been a while since he checked the seedlings from Yoongi. Heck, they might be dead.
So it’s a small mercy when he finds otherwise.
He crouches to a squat, slack-jawed with awe. What were the odds that they would grow?
“Nice sprouts you’ve got there.”
At the familiar voice, Jimin stands & faces the gate to find Namjoon, grinning as he peeks in.
“Hey.” Namjoon sends a wave and another easy smile.
Jimin scampers towards the gate. “I can’t join your snack run today. Sorry, bro. I got grounded.”
Namjoon shakes his head. “I’m not here for that. It’s just…” He leans closer and lowers his voice. “I got a call from the same person as yesterday. EatJin?”
Jimin’s pulse spikes.
“That’s Yoongi-hyung’s brother.”
“Yeah.” Namjoon continues, “Anyway, he and his brother were just wondering if you were home already, since you weren’t answering your phone last night. Which is also why I came by to check.”
Jimin makes a face. “I lost my phone privileges.”
“Right. That makes sense.” Namjoon scans Jimin’s face. “How do you feel? You look really troubled.”
Jimin raises both eyebrows. “I- I do?”
“Yes.” Namjoon cocks his head. “Did anything happen in Daegu?”
They way he says it, it’s almost like he’s certain of the answer.
There’s always been something about the way Namjoon looks at Jimin, as if he knows things that Jimin doesn’t. Which probably makes sense, given that he is older, but still. It’s unnerving how right he is.
Jimin swallows back a squeak and shakes his head. “Everything’s cool.”
As much as he wants to confide in Namjoon, to scream every doubt and confusion and hear what the elder has to say, how is he supposed to articulate things he doesn’t have the vocabulary for? Jimin can’t even digest his family situation, let alone relive that bus stop moment.
“Is it really?“ Namjoon prompts, leaning against the gate.
Jimin shrugs. He doesn’t have the capacity to mull over anything related to Yoongi. What happened in Daegu should stay there. “It’s a mess. I dunno. I’m confused.”
“It’s okay to be,” Namjoon says. “Not knowing is fine.”
Jimin crosses his arms, scrunching his face. “I feel…I feel stupid. It just hit me that I really am just a kid, y’know? Powerless. And I don’t know things. Many things. And everything is going to fall apart because of me.”
“That’s not true. You just need to sort your thoughts.”
Jimin clenches his fists. “I just wish I could do something.“ He doesn’t even know if he’s still means Yoongi, or his overall situation anymore. “Sorry. It’s a lot.”
Namjoon watches him carefully, then shrugs. “It’s normal.”
“I can’t talk to him.”
“Why don’t you want to?” Namjoon presses.
Jimin grows hesitant. Why /doesn’t/ he?
Because of what he did at the bus stop, Yoongi might start treating him coldly or worse, laugh it off. And Jimin can’t take that kind of rejection right now—not when everything is too fraught.
Jimin shakes his head slowly. “I don’t know what he’d say. And anyway, my phone’s not with me, so there’s no point.”
“So you don’t want to be his friend anymore?”
“It’s not that! I just… let me breathe. I have exams and eomma is already discussing passport stuff, I need time.”
His fingers creep to the chain around his neck, turning over the silver pendant resting on his collarbone. Jimin already misses him. But for the first time in a long time, he realizes he can’t bring himself to be as honest as he wants with Yoongi anymore.
“Is that from him?”
Jimin nods and sighs. He doesn’t make any additional remarks.
Namjoon gives a hum of understanding. “Well, take it day by day, bro. I’ll just let them know you need downtime. I’m sure they’ll get it.”
An appreciative smile tugs at Jimin’s mouth. “Thanks, bro.”
“No prob, bro.”
A week comes and goes in a dizzying blur. With finals looming and his phone still out of reach, Jimin throws himself into his studies. Funny how school becomes an escape when real life gets too shitty.
His appa disappears soon after. Neither Jimin nor Jihyun bother asking why.
Jimin gets so frazzled with daily chores and responsibilities that it comes as a sincere surprise when he finds a letter in their mailbox one fine Tuesday morning, all the way from Daegu.
He stomach drops at the name of the sender: Min Yoongi.
Here it is. An ultimatum.
The envelope doesn’t even have Yoongi’s trademark (-ㅅ-) face doodle next to his name, which stings.
Jimin stashes the letter deep into his drawers without opening it. He can’t afford to get distracted, not when there are exam papers to get through in the next few days.
His exams week passes without a hitch—the one thing in his life that’s going right. On Sunday morning, when he is finally handed back his phone, the first thing Jimin does is text Jungkook.
MY HOUSE ARREST IS LIFTED
[aspiring dead body collector]
pokemon choco roll???
[aspiring dead body collector]
race you to the store
They spend the afternoon hopping in and out of the convenience stores around their neighborhood, searching for the most coveted bread among their peers. They find Namjoon at the first store.
“Oh?” Namjoon says when they tap his shoulder. “Yo!”
For the first time in a long while, Jimin manages to grin freely. He and Jungkook give him matching salutes. “Yo!”
“We’re here for Poke-rolls. I’m looking for an Eevie sticker,” Jungkook says as they go hoard the bread aisle.
To Jimin’s utter dismay, the space where the Pokemon choco rolls are usually displayed is completely wiped out.
“Eh,” he mutters, frowning.
“Somebody took ALL the Poke-rolls!” Jungkook exclaims.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jimin spies Namjoon hightailing it out of the store.
Jimin points to the red-handed culprit. “GET HIM!”
Jeon Jungkook turns slowly, eyes filling with a fury worthy of rivaling Goku’s, before dashing out of the convenience store. Jimin sprints after him, blood pumping with determined adrenaline.
“Hoarding is cheating!” he screams.
“And stalking is a felony!” Namjoon’s shouts ring in the air as he, too, quickens his run, his footfalls heavy. “Shoo, shoo!”
“Ah, hyung!” Jungkook cries, face crumpled with disappointment. “How could you take everything!”
“First come first serve! Find another store, bye!”
Jimin slows to a jog and eventually stops, breathing raggedly as he bends to rest his hands on his knees. “Jungkook-ah, he’s right. We’ll find- more,” he gasps in lungfuls of air, “at other shops. Don’t waste your time dealing with a cheater.”
Jungkook jerks his chin and sniffs.
“Fine,” he relents, and he and Jimin turn back to raid the rest of the neighborhood, arms slung over each other’s shoulders.
Jimin wishes he could have more afternoons spent like these. It’s almost tragically funny, how much he’s taken snack runs with Jungkook for granted.
When they finally cop a few bags of Pokemon bread at the third convenience store, they both pump the air with whoops of victory. Celebration comes in the form of sitting outside the store’s sidewalk & sharing their sticker pulls.
“Oh! I got Torchick!” Jimin exclaims.
Jimin’s eyes go round. He leans over to snatch the sticker from Jungkook’s fingers. “Lemme see, lemme see!”
Jungkook pulls it out of reach, beaming smugly. “Better luck next time.”
“I’m gonna steal it when you sleep.”
“I will NEVER sleep.“
Jimin sneers. “Friendship over.”
Jungkook rolls his eyes, then turns his attention back to his bread. “Sour grape.”
Jimin smiles to himself and bites into his own choco roll.
A comfortable silence passes between them, both boys just chewing on their hard-earned snack as they watch the sun begin to dip lower.
“Are there Koreans in Australia?” Jungkook asks, gaze trained on the sun.
Jimin shrugs. “I hope so.”
“I bet they don’t have Pokemon bread there, though.”
“Shit. That’ll be a nightmare,” Jimin remarks. “But worse is—they won’t have any Jeon Jungkooks there, either,”
Jungkook nods casually, chewing on his bread. After a long moment, he declares, “Busan without Park Jimin is gonna stiiiink.”
Jimin ducks his head to force down the sudden lump growing in his throat. In doing so, he chokes on his bread, eyes turning watery.
A waterbottle lands on his lap.
“Chew slowly,” Jungkook advises. “Unlike you, the bread isn’t going anywhere.”
Jimin smacks his arm while he takes a swig of water. “Screw you.”
Jungkook giggles and holds out a peace sign.
“I’ll come back.”
It’s not a lie, Jimin realizes quietly, but more of a secret promise. To his friends, to Yoongi, to himself. He mulls it over on the walk home, until he’s back in his bedroom.
His mood is better; an afternoon with his friends helped to calm his nerves. He glances at his drawer.
Gingerly, Jimin opens the Dreaded Drawer to retrieve the envelope he’s been ignoring for days. Before he can chicken out, he opens the seal to read.
Heard you’re grounded. Take your time.
I meant it.
We don’t have to talk about anything.
I just wanted to show you this new frisbee hyung and I got. Cool, right?
p.s when you feel ready to talk, I have something important to tell you.
With a shaky exhale, Jimin lowers the letter and dips his fingers into the envelope to pull out a single photo of a blue frisbee.
Jimin sits on the bed, mind spinning and stomach churning. That’s it—Yoongi didn’t mention anything about Jimin’s bus shenanigans.
He must really be that humiliated if he’s not bringing it up. And that afterword… Jimin smacks his own forehead.
It can’t be anything else but a rejection, right? Yoongi is being too nice. He wants Jimin to come forward himself so they can have closure.
In some ways, the let-down is better than he imagined, because Yoongi is as kind and gentle as usual. But in a way, it’s also worse, because Jimin can’t even bring himself to resent the guy for being too nice.
He curls up in bed and tosses the letter on his desktop.
Since Yoongi told him to take his time, Jimin decides he might as well oblige. He’ll never be ready. Which means he’s not required to write back.
Namjoon had also advised him to take it day by day, that it’s okay to sort himself out first. Technically, Jimin isn’t wrong to do so.
He’s more than desperate to knock on his mother’s door and beg for a way out, but this is a mess he’d gotten himself into. Moreover, what would she say if she found out Jimin kissed a boy?
She has enough worries.
Jimin can’t tell a soul. Not about his feelings or frustrations.
So he takes the high way by toughing it out & pretending there isn’t anything wrong. On the day they get their exam results back, Jimin still doesn’t feel ready.
On the last day of the semester, Jimin still isn’t ready.
At the airport’s departure lounge—still not ready.
“You’ll never believe me,” Jimin says in front of his laptop’s front camera. “But December in Australia is /summer/. I want to bathe in ice.”
“Heol.” Jungkook and Namjoon’s faces crowd the camera. “When is winter, then?!”
“Mid-year. I know, crazy stuff.”
Moving into a new house wasn’t the hardest part of living in a new, different country. It’s getting used to the customs and the way people look at him when they realize his English is barely above conversational that sucks the most.
“How’s English classes?” Namjoon asks.
Jimin makes a sour face. “I think I’m gonna need your help. I’m okay with written quizzes but it’s hard getting Australian humor.”
“Don’t worry. Soon enough, you’ll pick up their accent and blend in until we won’t even recognize your voice anymore,” Namjoon jokes.
“If I’m free, maybe,” Namjoon concedes, then frowns. “But shouldn’t you have better English than me by now? It’s been a month!”
Jimin snorts. “If anything, it’s gotten harder.”
They chat casually, catching up and joking.
“Jungkook-ah!” An off-cam voice screams. “Come help!”
“Ooop, that’s my eomma. Hang on.” Jungkook hands over his phone to Namjoon. “Be right back.”
Namjoom shifts the camera until his face fills the screen. “So, bro. Have you gotten in touch with Yoongi yet? I haven’t heard from EatJin-ssi so I thought…”
Jimin’s smile drops. “No.”
Namjoon’s forehead creases. “You mean you never texted again? He doesn’t know you’re in Perth?”
“He told me to take my time until I’m ready!” Jimin points out petulantly. “So… I’m just biding my time.”
Even miles away, he can feel Namjoon’s disapproving, tight-jawed stare.
“I can’t believe you. Go text him!”
“I don’t have his number memorized. And I deleted my Kakao,” Jimin says, his stomach growing queasy.
“Then how were you planning to reply to him?“ Namjoon asks.
Jimin bites his lip. “I know his address by heart. I’ll just… write him?”
“Jimin,” Namjoon says with a small sigh. “You can be honest with me, you know that, right?”
Jimin puffs up his cheeks stubbornly, then sighs. “Yes.”
“Why are you avoiding Yoongi?”
“You are. C’mon, what really happened in Daegu? Did he hug you?”
Jimin balks. “No?”
Namjoon narrows his eyes. “Did he—did he try to do anything to you? Hurt you? If he forced anything—“
“I kissed him, okay!” Jimin blurts, heart pounding. He looks at his bedroom door to make sure the lock is pushed in, then lowers his voice to a frantic whisper. “I— we… urrgg.”
The video call goes silent. Jimin forces his gaze on his keyboard.
Great. Now Namjoon knows, and he’s going to lose whatever respect he had for Jimin, which is such a shame because Jimin admires the guy so much—
“And how did it feel?” Namjoon asks slowly.
“Wha…?” Jimin painstakingly lifts his eyes to the video call, stunned to find that Namjoon doesn’t look dismayed or amused, but curious. Like he’s taking Jimin’s confession seriously.
“You kissed him. How did it feel?” Namjoon repeats. “Gross?”
“What- no!” Jimin cries.
Namjoon nods like a scientist inspecting a petri dish, a small smile pulling at the corners of his lips. “And?”
Jimin’s cheeks are burning. “And what?”
“Did he kiss you back?”
“He- I can’t remember. It was too quick. We were saying bye and I hopped on the bus after.”
“And you haven’t spoken since?” Namjoon says. Jimin shakes his head.
“I’m scared, hyung. What if he- what if he hates what I did?”
“You’ll never know until you talk to the guy, bro. Only he can answer that,” Namjoon explains patiently. “Which is why I suggest writing him now.”
Jimin bites on the insides of his cheeks, trying not to let shame overwhelm him. “Okay.”
“HELLO~” Jungkook’s voice chirps in seconds before his face appears next to Namjoon’s. “I’m back, hoho.”
“Just in time for our AOT anime discussion,” Namjoon says affectionately.
Jungkook whistles. “I wanna be Reiner’s friend. He seems cool.”
Namjoon snorts. “Wait ‘til you reach the later seasons. Anyway, Jimin, remember what I said, okay?”
Jimin manages a wan smile. “Yeah.”
“What? What was it?” Jungkook asks.
“Uh… Pokemon Go hacks,” Namjoon says.
Jimin sits in front of his desk, pen hovering over a sheet of paper. Birds are chirping outside the window, too peaceful against the hammering of his heart.
It’s suddenly so much harder to write when there’s so much to say. Where does he even begin?
Jimin inhales deeply.
I’m in Australia. Things didn’t work out between my parents.
I’m sorry it took so long. And for making you wait. I needed time to figure myself out.
That time at the bus stop, I kissed you because I needed to confirm. Now I’m sure.
I like you.
Posting a letter has never been more nerve-wracking. Jimin has to take calming breaths as he hesitates outside the postbox, & squeals when the letter finally drops from his fingers.
He paces back and forth several minutes afterwards, just in time to see the mailman collect them.
No takebacks now. Jimin will perhaps move to another new city and claim a new identity for himself now. Or maybe he will hide in a cave until he gets a reply.
All week, he’s been so focused on when he would get answer that he forgot to consider /if/ he would even get one.
A week passes, then two.
Nothing. The anticipation that’s been building in his chest slowly morphs into anxiety, and later resentment.
In January, he and Namjoon hold a video call again, and he confides all that he’s done so far. Namjoon listens without interruption, frowning.
“Do you think maybe he moved away?” Jimin frets, twisting the hem of his shirt.
“If the whole family did, the letter would get bounced back, no?” says Namjoon. “So, that’s odd.”
Great. Just great. Jimin groans. “Do you still have EatJin’s number?”
“Yeah, hold on.”
Namjoon dials on his phone, his frown deepening after several moments. “Huh. It says the number is not in use. Do you remember his address? I can maybe check for you. Send a letter.”
Jimin recites Yoongi’s address by heart, his worry barely relieved by Namjoon’s promise to help.
He decides to do a bit of sleuthing on his own. If Yoongi’s family moved away, that would reflect on Seokjin’s mukbang videos, right? Seokjin always talks about where he eats.
He checks the YouTuber’s channel, only for his heart to sink—every video was based in Korea recently.
Which means Yoongi’s family is safe and sound in their home country.
The initial resentment in Jimin grows into a full-blown, fiery bitterness. After baring his heart out, Yoongi is ignoring him back.
So much for taking his time.
Jimin shakes his head. “How petty, Min Yoongi.”
END OF HIGH SCHOOL ERA
College childhood friends-to-enemies-to-lovers, anyone? :]
If you would like to help me save up for my college summer exchange this year, my Ko-fi is below hehe:
“So, we’re going to have a new appa,” says Jimin candidly, inspecting his nails while leaning back on his reclining computer armchair. Jungkook’s confounded face fills the laptop screen on the table before him.
“Your eomma is remarrying?”
Jimin shrugs. “I’m not buying it.”
“What, that your eomma will marry again?”
“That anyone can ever step in as my appa,” Jimin sniffs. He tamps down the age-old bitterness in his heart with a ninchalant shrug. “I always knew that lawyer was fishy from the get-go. He was too friendly to Jihyun.”
What Jimin appreciates about his friendship with his ex-neighbor during the time they’ve been apart is this: Jungkook never presses. He has a way of making things seem carefree and innocent.
He won’t ask, /Will you like him as a dad?/ because he knows it’s a given—Jimin doesn’t.
“How’s Jihyun anyway?” Jungkook says as he grabs an apple from somewhere behind his laptop camera.
Jimin cringes. “He’s gotten so moody and edgy, Kook. I can’t believe that brat’s my brother. He started wearing black all the time and only listens to bands I’ve never heard of.”
Jungkook hums. “Maybe he’s going through the p-word.”
Jungkook lowers his voice and leans towards the camera. “Puberty, hyung. Sounds like he’s pubertizing.”
Jimin muffles a snort. “Well I miss my little brother. I share a home with an English-speaking stranger now!”
“Well, maybe if you tried harder at English you’d get along better with him,” comments Jungkook. Jimin scowls at him. It’s not like he hasn’t heen trying!
“Look who’s talking, mister 4/100 in English,” taunts Jimin. “Namjoon-hyung tutors me well enough, okay. How is he, anyway?”
At this, Jungkook’s face splits into a proud grin. “Aced the college entrance exams, as usual. He’s deciding between SNU, KU and Yonsei.”
“Those are literally the SKY unis,” Jimin gives a low whistle, nodding. “Amazing.”
“And I’m gonna follow him,” Jungkook announces firmly.
Jimin’s eyebrows shoot up to his forehead. “Dude, you’re literally a freshman.”
“Almost a junior,” Jungkook corrects.
“You should focus on enjoying your time! Why rush?”
“Because then Namjoon-hyung is moving to Seoul,” Jungkook mutters. “And I can’t get there fast enough.”
“Why him, anyway?” Jimin chuckles, endeared by Jungkook’s determination. Judging by the look on his friend’s face, there is no swaying him.
“I trust him. I want to be around him when I become a grown-up. If it’s not him, it’s weird.” Jungkook shrugs, scratching his arm absently.
The words send a pang through Jimin, making him fall silent for several moments. Once upon a time, he used to have someone for whom he felt the same way. “‘If it’s not him, it’s weird’, huh?” He leans forward on the desk. “Jungkook, listen. Don’t depend too much on hyung.”
Jungkooo arches a skeptical eyebrow at him. “Say whaaat…?”
“I know he’s great and wonderful and smart and kind and perfect, but don’t bet all your cards on him. He’s our friend, I know, but I care about you, too. Is there a reason you wanna study in Seoul apart from him?”
Jungkook nods, the determination in his eyes never once fading. “Film. I can major in it in one of the Seoul institutions.”
Jimin’s shoulders relax. “That’s good, then.”
“What about you, hyung?“ asks Jungkook. “Aren’t you graduating next year? It’ll be your turn to plan.”
Jimin cocks his head to one side, tongue playing with his inner cheeks. “College, huh?” He supposes he could just attend a local uni in Perth—the education here is not bad, and if he’s honest he’s slowly starting to get used to it here.
Still, nothing beats the comfort of home.
And once he is legal, he could technically just up and leave to go wherever he wants. It’s not the first time that the thought of moving back with his appa—his real appa in Busan—crossed Jimin’s mind.
He sighs. “I’ll worry about that once I turn 18.”
Just then, his phone rings.
Jimin excuses himself from the video calls and spins on his armchair as he answers the call. “Hello?”
“Yo, Jimbo!” a jolly voice chirps out loud. “Party at my place tomorrow night? Summer, so pool’s open. Bring only yourself and good vibes.”
“See you there!”
Jimin smiles to himself and answers in Korean, “Alright.”
“Hooo, am I hearing this right? Park Jimin is actually attending one of my parties?” Jackson whistles. “After one year of trying, maybe my extreme charisma is finally influencing you.”
“Maybe I’m just feeling kind.”
Jackson barks out a laugh. “See ya tomorrow night!”
Jimin hangs up and places his phone back on the table, shaking his head. “Sorry ‘bout that, Kook. What a persistent guy.”
Jungkook grins. “Congrats on finally having friends. Is he also Korean?”
Jimin hums. “Met him through the youth support group at the church our family attende every Sunday. Eomma figured out pretty quick that the way to meet other Koreans in a foreign country is through church, so.” Jackson isn’t exactly there to pray though, but to ‘create networks’.
Jungkook chortles. “He sounds like fun. I’d wanna hang out with him, too. Don’t be a party pooper, okay?”
“Hey, I’m fun,” Jimin retorts with a pout, though the silence that lingers afterwards speaks for itself.
“Heol. Hyung, don’t tell me this is going to be your first party?”
“No comment,” says Jimin.
“It is, isn’t it?” Jungkook cackles. “That’s so cool. Will there be foreigners around?”
“How am I supposed to know?!”
“Maybe you can finally find a girlfriend there. Or boyfriend.”
“Mmm,” Jimin says noncommittaly, shyness rising in him.
He doesn’t know how Jungkook knows his… well, his whole sexual crisis, but once again it’s like Jungkook could /tell/ without having to ask. Jimin wets his lips, unsure how to skirt around something he’s never openly spoken about.
It’s not like he’s sure of himself, anyway.
Because sure, while sexual education in Australia is better than in South Korea, and there’s more awareness about different identities, ever since Yoongi ghosted him, Jimin hasn’t truly allowed himself to explore how he feels, or what his likes and dislikes are. He’s been busy.
“Lighten up, hyung,” Jungkook’s voice pulls him out of his reverie. “You’ve been working hard. It’s okay to take a break and party, hohooo. You can do it!”
Jimin manages a half-hearted smile. “Thanks, Kook.”
People his age are already lingering around the steps leading up to the front porch of the Wang residence by the time Jimin arrives.
Heavy bass music pulses from the inside, so loud that Jimin can’t be imagining the way the pavement below him is quaking ever so slightly.
He halts a few steps short of the house, contemplating. It strikes him that he doesn’t really know how to be a ‘common teenager’ like his classmates. In Busan, his world had been so small. He had his close circle of friends who all spoke Korean.
Maybe he should just go home.
But before he can turn around and scamper away, the front door swings open to reveal none other than the young master of the house himself, a red cup in one hand and a a hula hoop (???) in another.
“Park Jwemenn, my dude!” Jackson hollers, eyes shining. “Finally. Come on in!”
And then Jimin is getting swept into a home that smells like an odd combination of energy drinks, pizza and a stronger scent that can’t be anything other than alcohol.
“We’re having a hula hoop battle!” yells Jackson, handing Jimin a neon pink one. “How good is your hip game?”
“My- my what?”
“Never mind.” Jackson claps Jimin in the shoulder before giving him a slight push in the direction of the living room. “I nominate you, Park Jimin! Let’s see if you’ve got what it takes to be a hula master. Hey, hey Mark! Who’ve you got competing from your group?”
“We’re betting on this one here,” a blonde-haired guy who must be Mark answers, tugging another boy sporting golden highlights over silky black hair. “Taemin beat the others from all the previous rounds.”
Jimin gulps, unable to peel his eyes from his competitor. How /pretty/.
“Step out, step out, you two!” Jackson grabs a hairbrush and pretends to use it as a microphone. Jimin yelps as he gets shoved in Taemin’s direction, his neck warming at the bashful but cheeky smile that the other boy sends his way.
“This is round one of the Hula Challenge. Go!”
Time blurs by. If you ask him, Jimin would honestly be anywhere than here, forced to shake and shake his hips to keep the hula hoop from touching the floor. How did he even end up here?
But then Taemin’s hula hoop hits the ground barely 15 seconds in, to his supporters’ dismay.
Surprised, Jimin forgets to move, and his own hula clatters to the floor shortly after.
“Aw, man!” someone cries.
“WHAT! After you beat the last 3 guys? Taemin, are you that tired?!”
“Sorry, Minho-hyung.” Taemin bends down to pick up Jimin’s hoop, smiling. “Looks like I lost.”
He cranes his neck up to pass Jimin the hula hoop, dark eyes catching the twinkle of the purple-blue-green lights from the living room’s ceiling, and Jimin almost forgets his own name.
“Yes!” Jackson screams, pumping a fist in the air. “I knew I count on you, Jimothy!”
More cheers rise from Jackson’s side, ringing in Jimin’s ears.
Shit. As much as he adores attention, Jimin isn’t equipped well enough to deal with this much all at once, especially from people he barely knows. Especially under the scrutiny of a very cute (& possibly older) guy.
So he does what he knows best. Turning on his heel, Jimin excuses himself with a squeak and scuttles out of the living room. Anywhere but the spotlight.
Ever since he arrived in this country, he’s wanted nothing but to blend in. He heads to the kitchen to grab a drink.
To his dismay, Jimin can’t locate any pitcher of plain water or an untouched carton of juice. He knows about the drinking habits of Australian kids, of course, but he just doesn’t feel like glugging liquor right now. Besides, it’s not allowed! He’ll only turn 18 in a few months!
“Can I get you anything, dearie?” Another blonde-haired guy asks in Korean. Jimin turns around to find a guy leaning across the kitchen island, batting his eyelashes at him.
“Um. Just juice?” says Jimin.
The guy laughs and pushes a red cup his way. “Here, have some orange.”
Jimin nods in thanks and grabs the cup, raising it to his lips.
“I wouldn’t drink that, if you just want juice,” interjects a silken, lilting voice.
Lowering the cup, Jimin turns to find his competitor from earlier standing a a few feet away, hands in his red baseball jacket.
Taemin walks over and gently coaxes the cup out of Jimin’s grasp, before returning it to the blonde guy who had served. “Kibum-hyung, seriously. This isn’t juice, is it?”
Kibum snorts and raises two hands in surrender. “Fine, it’s a mixer. But there IS orange in it!”
Taemin rolls his eyes and turns to Jimin. “These guys are smashed, sorry ‘bout that. But don’t worry, I’ve got you. Take my sports drink. I haven’t drunk from it.”
He hands Jimin a cold bottle, and Jimin uncaps it with a muttered ‘thanks’, all while thinking—
/I’ve got you./
How could 3 words bring back such a whiplash of unwarranted emotions? Jimin’s heart might choke on the sudden swell of nostalgia inside of him, if he goes on like this.
He looks up at Taemin, wide-eyed. “Thanks again.”
Taemin shrugs, beaming. “Just looking out for the newbies.”
Jimin cocks his head to one side. “How’d you know I’m new?”
“Well, I’ve never seen your face around here before,” Taemin answers, his eyes softening with a curious twinkle. “And I’m pretty sure I’d remember you if we’ve met before.”
Jimin wants to believe he’s sincere. “Same.”
Taemin tilts his head, studying him. “Your name is Park Jimin, right?”
Jimin nods. “And… you’re Taemin?”
“Lee Taemin, yep. Graduated this year. Jackson begged us to come to his reunion bash.”
So he’s a year younger than Yoo— no, he’s only a year older than Jimin himself.
Jimin decides he can get with that. Maybe being friends with a cool senior will help break him out of his shell, who knows? “You’ve been living in Perth for…?”
“Oh, I grew up here. Moved with my family when I was 7, I don’t remember,” Taemin chuckles. “My Korean’s quite rusty.”
Jimin giggles. “I could teach you..?”
“Free of charge, please, otherwise I’d have to repay you some other way,” Taemin jokes as they sit, and only then does Jimin realize they’ve moved away from the kitchen to find free space on a couch.
“I could think of ways to charge you.”
Taemin throws his head back with a soft wheeze, turning his body to face Jimin. “Are you flirting with me right now?”
In a stroke of boldness and honesty, Jimin shrugs. “Do you want it to be?”
/Maybe you’ll finally find a girlfriend. Or boyfriend./
Jungkook would be proud.
Jimin lifts the energy drink between them. “How about this. Need me to repay you?”
He inches closer to whisper this to Taemin, highly aware of the heat between their bodies. There’s not much logic to this. Not knowing Taemin makes it easier.
Taemin huffs. “You’re confident.”
Jimin leans back and gnaws on his bottom lip, lowering his gaze. He can feel the bass music thumping in time with his hesrtbeat. He’s mildly aware of the bodies standing around their couch, pressing against one another. What is he even doing, really? “I’m not. I’m terrified.”
Jungkook was right about him. He’d been grinding himself to death all this time, and now Jimin feels like a coil of spring wrung too tight from unbidden pressure. He swallows thickly. “I don’t really know what I’m doing. But I like this, right now. Feeling no pressure.”
Taemin surveys him for a long moment, then leans forward and rests his chin on one palm. “Okay.” He tilts his head, eyes kind. “No pressure, then. Is this your way of saying you feel attracted to me?”
Jimin shrugs. “I…I can’t say.”
“Would you like me to kiss you to find out?”
Out of habit, Jimin’s fingers come up to cradle the silver guitar pick pendant resting between his collarbones. He gnaws on the insides of his cheeks. “Just kissing?”
The corners of Taemin’s eyes bunch up softly. “If you want.”
Heart leaping, Jimin closes the gap between them.
They don’t date. When the party ends at daybreak and Jimin’s mouth is red and swollen from having the living daylights kissed out of him, Taemin scribbles his social media username into his wrist and disappears with his friends.
It’s… exhilarating, really.
If kissing Yoongi had made Jimin realize how he’s been banging his fists against an imaginary bolted door his whole life, then kissing Taemin was the final key to getting the floodgates to open. Suddenly, kissing boys doesn’t seem too daunting of a challenge anymore.
It’s like being struck with lightining, and he’s more aware of himself now more than ever. Because of his suddenly-earned reputation as a Hula Master, Jimin finds himself getting invited to more parties over the next few months. He gets picky with clothes, dyes his hair blonde.
His eomma claims she’s watching her son turn into a stranger, but Jimin would beg to differ. Just like how his little brother is turning into some kind of emo goth punk rocker (Jihyun recently picked up drums and guitar), Jimin has never felt more… complete, and sure of himself.
He joins his high school’s debate team to improve his confidence. On top of public speaking skills, he learns just how fucking huge and diverse the world is, and so many current affairs and injustices to be /angry/ about.
Busan had been a small world. Perth, on the other hand…
“I needed it,” Jimin explains when Jungkook’s eyes practically pop out of their sockets the moment Jimin’s blonde hair appears onscreen. Jimin flips his hair this way and that. “I’m growing it out. Maybe dye it peach.”
“You look like an m-word!” Jungkook exclaims.
Jimin flinches. /Marigold?/ “I mean, being blonde isn’t about representing a flower—“
“A mochi!” Jungkook says, showing two thumbs up. “Do you have girlfriend or boyfriend yet?!”
Jimin pauses, then chuckles. “I have partners…?”
Jungkook spits out the banana milk he’s drinking halfway. “What do you mean, ‘partners’?!”
“As in, I don’t attach myself to one.”
“You cheat on everyone?”
“No! Kook, what the hell. I mean I don’t fall into committed relationships. I just… go to parties and have fun.”
Jungkook tilte his head in a puppylike manner. “So you just go around kissing whoever? Why would you do that?”
“Because it’s just… fun?” Jimin shrugs. “I don’t know. A cultural difference, maybe. I’m still figuring things out. And besides, it’s not like I sleep around.”
Jungkook’s face turns crestfallen. “Wah, hyung. You’re so grown-up now.” He chuckles and sips his banana milk sadly. “Everyone’s going so fast, but I’m still here. Heh.”
The droopy doe eyes are too much for Jimin’s eyes to handle. “Don’t rush so much, Kook. Just be yourself!”
Jungkook sighs and looks out to tbe distance, “Sometimes, I can still hear Jimin-hyung’s voice…”
Jimin rolls his eyes. “I didn’t DIE, idiot.”
“Will you still drink banana milk with me sometimes?” Jungkook asks, face troubled. “You’ve started drinking, haven’t you?”
Jimin holds up two fingers. “I have two months to go before I’m legal. Heee.”
“Heee,” Jungkook mimics. He raises his banana milk. “A toast to our minor-ness, then?”
Lifting his own glass of lime juice from his desk, Jimin grins. “Cheers to us, bestie.”
The partying rages on, and Jimin’s mother’s rage grows bigger. By now she’s married that show-off of a lawyer, but Jimin could hardly care. Not even when she threatens to kick him out.
Every now and then, Jimin crosses paths with Taemin, and they fall back into their patterns.
On his 18th birthday, Jackson throws a party in his name (much to Jimin’s amusement; the guy could throw a party in the name Good Weather, really, he just needs the bare minimum excuse), and Taemin turns up with his own crew again. By now they’ve been on and off for months.
Making out with Taemin is like resorting to a beloved chocolate brand after a hellish exams week. Jimin crawls into his lap as soon as he finds Taemin alone on one of the bean bags, and makes out with him for so long he ends up tugging Jimin up to one of the rooms upstairs.
Flushed and buzzing with the alcohol in his blood, Jimin groans when Taemin starts palming him through his leather jeans, a shudder tingling down his spine. But when Taemin starts unzipping his pants—
“Wait, wait,” Jimin pants, detaching his lips and stepping back. “Um.”
“Yeah?” Taemin’s inky eyes rove over him, glimmering with hunger. One of his hands start massaging the side of Jimin’s hip. “Happy birthday, baby.”
Jimin can’t hear his own thoughts over the rushing of his blood, but one thing he does know is: “I can’t.” He touches his pendant.
Taemin’s eyes widen. “Oh. Have you- you’ve never…?”
Jimin slowly shakes his head, willing his hands to stop trembling. He closes his eyes as his palm closes around the cold pendant. “Just kiss me?”
“Okay.” Taemin rests his forehead against his. “We don’t have to do anything.”
Taemin just lies in bed with him for the rest of the night, and is still holding him when Jimin wakes up the next morning. Watching Taemin’s sleepy eyes flutter open to regard him with a softness Jimin doesn’t deserve, he thinks:
/Shit, he likes me./
It makes Jimin anxious.
Just like that, Jimin begins to have a niggling suspicion that he may or may not have bagged himself a cool boyfriend. Taemin texts him more frequently, asking to have meals together at least once every few weeks. No kissing or touching, just hanging out. It’s not bad, per se.
But it’s not life-altering or mind-numbing, either. Being around Taemin is like being on a steadily-rocking boat with no wind or sails. Jimin doesn’t have the heart to define their relationship nor call it quits.
Which is why it lasts for as long as it does, beyond graduation.
His mother doesn’t attend his graduation ceremony because of a business meeting, but Jihyun does. Jimin’s little brother starts an Instagram livestream for Jungkook and Namjoon to tune in, and their genuine support is more than enough for Jimin to smile brightly on the stage.
Taemin is there too, not just for Jimin but also because he’s friends with several people from Jackson’s class. Their wild chatter and whoops of congratulations are enough to power an entire neighborhood’s electric usage.
“What’s your next step?” Taemin asks, holding his hand.
Jimin’s lips curl into a sneer. “/Not/ college.”
True to his word, he disobeys every last expectation from his eomma and finds part-time jobs instead of applying for college. He helps out at a bakery, then works as a janitor at a theatre, while cashiering at the K-Mart at night.
Having so many part-time jobs actually has its perks. While it does mean Jimin gets less time to sleep or go out with friends, at least the manager at the bakery is kind enough to let him bring home the leftovers.
If he’s lucky, the gimbap at the K-Mart is not so stale yet.
At this point, his family except for Jihyun has practically stopped speaking to him, barely acknowledging his presence on rare occasions he /is/ home. Often, his mother just sighs out loud and complains in a not-so-subtle manner about how she’s raised two ungrateful sons.
Which is why Jimin’s made a habit of crashing Taemin’s new apartment on nights when he’s not on shift.
One such night, a few weeks before his 19th birthday, Taemin turns to him while Jimin is giggling over a viral Tiktok video on his bed.
“Mmm?” Jimin lowers his phone.
Taemin’s hand creeps across the bed to cover Jimin’s. “Nothing. Just missed you.”
Jimin hums and strokes his boyfriend’s hair. Feeling like a robot, he mumbles a customary, “Same.”
“You’ve been tired lately.”
“You look like it.” Taemin’s gaze meets his. “Wanna share?”
“I’m fine though,” says Jimin. “Just same old work shit.”
Taemin’s eyes waver. “Okay.”
Jimin averts his gaze. That’s the look Taemin gives him when he wants to make out. They’ve gotten handsy a couple of times, but Jimin’s never been able to explain why he can’t go all the way.
Habit and old instinct has him fidgeting with the silver necklace around his neck nervously. Jimin clears his throat. “Sorry I haven’t been around much—“
“You’ve never told me about that.”
Jimin blinks. “Huh?”
Taemin nods towards the guitar pick. “Your pendant. Any backstory?”
Jimin’s heart lodges in his throat as a fresh wave of hot tears sting the back of his eyes. Just like this, within a few seconds and he’s ready to bawl. Over two years have passed & still so pathetic.
Memories flood his mind: scenes of writing letters and Pokemon bread hunting.
“Hmm?” Taemin prods him with an elbow. “What’s so special about it?”
It’s everything. All that was good and well and precious before life crumbled to pieces.
Jimin presses the back of his hand to his eyes and hides his face into the corner of the pillow. “It’s from home.”
“Ah. Like a family heirloom?” Taemin inquires, voice piqued with interest.
“Cool. I wish we had a family heirloom,” Taemin says, one hand coming up to pat Jimin’s head. “Do you get homesick a lot?”
Jimin clutches the pendant—a missing piece of him. “All the time.”
“Jimin-ah,” his mother surprises him by calling the moment he gets home that morning. “Come here.”
Jimin bites back a groan and has to drag his feet to the dining area, where his eomma is sitting with his stepfather.
“Nice of you to remember you have a son,” Jimin half-jokes.
His eomma seems to be having none of it. She points to the seat opposite her, face completely wiped of any trace of a smile. “Sit with us.”
Jimin’s pulse quickens. “Why, what’s happening? I’m not causing trouble, I swear.”
“Nothing like that, don’t worry,” says his stepfather.
He exchanges a look with his wife, then says, “Should I tell him or you?”
His mother presses her lips together, then clears her throat. “Jimin-ah. You’re going to have a baby sister.”
Jimin has been so detached from this family that he honestly feels nothing, not even surprise.
He only remember to give an appropriate reaction when a long silence passes, accompanied by his eomma and stepfather’s anxious faces.
“Oh, right.” Jimin raises two thumbs up. “Good job! I mean- congrats. Woohoo.”
The tension from his eomma’s face seeps out slightly. “Thanks.”
“We’re fully ready to take responsibility for the baby,” his stepfather says, his tone lightening.
“It’s just. You know you’ve graduated high school,” says his mother. “And you’re working now.”
“And the cost of raising a child is… it’s a lot.”
Jimin scoffs. “So… you want me to help out with child support?”
“If you’d like to help babysit while we work…” His mother trails off. “Of course, you can do whatever you want with your time. You’re legal after all.”
She has no idea how ridiculous she sounds. Jimin scoffs.
“You’re right, I’m legal.” Jimin stands, sending the chair scraping backwards. “And I can decide what to do on my own terms, including rejecting the offer.”
His non-family stares at him, dumbfounded.
“Bet you didn’t imagine I’d say no.” Jimin smiles. “Lemme just move out, too.”
He jogs up the stairs to grab some basic necessaities from his bedroom. On his way down the corridor connecting his room to the staircase, he spots Jihyun’s eyes peeking from his room.
Jimin stops short, heart twisting. He marches to Jihyun & hugs his brother’s head to his chest.
“Listen,” he whispers fiercely. “Don’t give up on school, alright? You have to keep going until you’re legal. I’ll make arrangements and take you then.” He crouches lower to match Jihyun’s eye level. “Don’t let them make a babysitter out of you, okay? Don’t become me. Promise.”
Jihyun looks up at him, forehead creased. Then he gives Jimin a smirk and pats his shoulder. “I’ll be fine, hyung. I’m gonna join a band and we’ll tour the world. No worries. Peace.”
How he’s grown in such a short time. Jimin huffs, ruffling his brother’s hair. “You do that.”
“And just where do you think you’re going?” his mother adminishes shrilly when he spots Jimin stomping down the stairs with a stuffed duffle bag. “You’ll be back in a week. You’re too broke.”
Jimin smirks. As if he hasn’t been saving up, just in case. “Wouldn’t you know.”
Taemin’s face grows stormy the moment he hears the news. “What the hell. How could they do that to you?”
They’re sitting at his a coffee shop closer to Taemin’s office building, since Jimin called him in the middle of the day to rant over a baguette and a cup of hot chocolate.
Jimin lets out a heavy sigh and massages his head. “Welcome to my life.”
“I can’t believe I didn’t know,” Taemin says, regarding Jimin as if with fresh eyes. Then, he mutters to himself again, “I can’t believe I didn’t know…”
“Yeah, you didn’t. Sorry for keeping it from you.”
A long silence descends between them, Jimin too lost in thought to bring up any more conversation other than, “Thanks for coming down to see me on such a short notice.”
Taemin shrugs. “It was my lunch break.” He sips his coffee. “So, what’s next?”
He’s always asking that.
Jimin stirs his hot chocolate for several quiet moments. When he looks up again, Taemin is there, gazing at him with eyes so dull it’s like he died while walking—not living, just surviving.
Those eyes used to shine so brilliantly.
A huge part of Jimin blames himself for that.
“Am I… am I anywhere in what you’re thinking of?” Taemin jokes half-heartedly, and Jimin can’t possibly hate himself more than he does right now.
“I think I might go to college now, properly,” Jimin says, eyes downcast, “…in Seoul.”
Silence, sharp and fragmented.
There’s a headache beginning to throb at the base of Jimin’s skull, and he can’t decide whether he wants to close his eyes to cry or sleep for a hundred years. Taemin’s smile slips into a thin, pressed line. He nods slowly.
Jimin fiddles with his mug’s handle, eyes welling up.
“I always kind of figured,” Taemin says slowly, his voice cracking at the end. He clears his throat. “Somewhere along the way I just realized—I don’t know much about you at all, Jimin.” He sighs. “And you knew that, didn’t you?”
Jimin licks his trembling bottom lip. “I’m sorry.”
Taemin shrugs. “It takes two to tango, after all. I knew it, too. I’m glad we talked about it today, actually.”
“I really do care about you,” Jimin says, hoping Taemin can see how much he means it.
“I know. You’re good. But I think a boyfriend isn’t what you need right now.”
“He’s right, you know,” Jungkook muses, rubbing his chin as though he’s an elite scholar. “What you need is a good smack in the head!”
Jimin scoffs at him in mock affront.
“And then a hot choco and hotteok afterwards. Seriously, hyung, you’re a walking red flag.”
“Oh, revered Jungkook-nim, whatever shall I do, then? Please enlighten me with your words of wisdom,” says Jimin in honorifics.
“Stay. Single,” Jungkook advises, gesturing with his hands for emphasis.
“What, like you?” Jimin challenges, opening his convenience store gimbap.
“Excuse youuu, I’m temporarily single, but it’s by choice.” Jungkook’s voice falls to a whisper. “I’m betrothed, hyung.”
Jimin nearly spits out his gimbap mid-chew. “You— WHAT?”
Jungkook nods solemnly. “I spoke to Namjoon hyung about it. We’ll take it slow, but… someday.”
If minds could have a visual representation, Jimin’s would probably look like a dead channel right now, all grey static and white noise. He gulps his mouthful and stutters, “You and h-hyung- since WHEN? And what- someday?“
/Someday/. Yoongi had promised him that, too. That liar.
“I didn’t want to bring it up ‘cos you’re sad, and anyway it’s not like hyung and I are a thing right now. We have dreams to achieve first,” Jungkook blabbers, cheeks flushing. “So, yeah. I’ll tell you about it another time.”
“You’ll spill it all it when I land my ass in Seoul!”
“Woah.” Jungkook holds both hands up, eyes growing rounder. “You’re coming here?! REALLY? When?”
For the first time all day, Jimin cracks a smile. Jungkook’s excitement is infectious, and it’s nice to have someone feel happy for him during this time. “Yeah. I’m going home.”
While Jungkook eats his fist in happiness, Jimin sighs and surveys the cheap backpacker motel he paid for overnight, with its musty curtains and thin mattress. “It’ll take time to save up a bit more. But I don’t really think Australia is for me, after all.”
“But- Seoul, hyung?”
“Yeah. I’ll attend uni there. But I gotta save up.” Jimin has about five grand over the years he’s saved up from his part time jobs, but that’s barely enough to last him half a year in the big city. “I found an aunt who lives in Myeongdong. The rich sister who cut eomma off.”
“And you think she’s going to take you in?”
Jimin shrugs. “She owns a café near the university I want to study in. I told her I’d work my ass off if she lets me stay with her. Besides, we have something in common—hating eomma’s guts.”
Jungkook claps slowly. “You’re so adult.”
Jimin flips his hair and beams. “Right?”
“But just in case. You can always stay with me in Busan, if things don’t work out. Then we can move to Seoul together,” Jungkook suggests, and Jimin’s heart positively swells with affection.
“I’ll be fine, Kook. Don’t worry about hyung.”
Jungkook grins with a thumbs up, and they end the call shortly after bidding good night. As soon as the screen goes dark, Jimin is met with his own reflection on his laptop.
His face is haggard. He hasn’t eaten well in weeks, which is why he’s stuffing himself with gimbap now.
The face that looks back at him has a smile frozen on it, but his eyes…
Jimin wonders whose eyes those are, because they seem too fucking sad for a 19-year-old.
He’d put that smile on for Jungkook.
In the quiet void of this room, Jimin muffles his sobs with gimbap rolls.
He dreams of writing a letter that night, addressed to nobody in particular. In his dreams, the words don’t appear in writing. Instead, he hears his own voice narrating it to himself while his mind replays memories of him working his part time jobs.
“Dear nobody,” he narrates to himself while he mops the floor at the theatre lobby during a morning shift. “I dream of waking up and not worrying about my next meal, because someone who loves me cooked warm rice. I dream about rice, and being able to eat more than two bowls.”
The scene melts away, showing memories of his first day at the bakery, where he’d tripped and upset a tray of muffins. The manager had given him an earful that day, and called him ‘clueless chink’.
“In my dream, there is a perfect world where people are kind and laugh together.”
And then Dream Jimin is coming home to an empty, silent house. He tiptoes towards the stairs, only to find the kitchen light on, where Jihyun is snacking on Nutella. They sit together and finish the entire tub.
“In this perfect world, parents are smart, and nobody is forgotten.”
“Dear nobody,” his voice says while Dream Jimin toils away at his graveyard shifts at the convenience store. At the end of each shift, he takes out the expiring food and sneaks them into his backpack. Expiry dates aren’t real!
“I’m very lost, and I want to go home and sleep.”
Living life at rock-bottom is incredibly humbling. At the same time, it gives Jimin an unexpected confidence boost—the way he sees it, he has nothing to lose but everything to gain.
His aunt—Lee Miseon—calls him after a few days.
Jimin picks up with shaky hands, but soon as the line connects, he takes a deep breath and launches into a sales pitch on Why He Would Be An Asset To His Aunt.
By the time he finishes talking, he’s breathing hard, chest rising and falling rapidly. “I hope you agree, imo-nim.”
“Ooohh, not bad,” Aunt Miseon answers. Her voice is lively and perky, like she’s just drank a double-shot espresso. “Yah, Jimin-ah, you know my café is hiring a full-timer, right?”
“Really?” Jimin frowns. “But I checked your website. It says you’re not hiring—“
“Now we are.”
“But- my university schedule—“
“Quit fretting about your plans and just haul your ass back here ASAP,” Aunt Miseon cackles. “Let’s see what kind of son my little sister raised.”
Jimin perks up. “You- you’ll let me stay?”
“I’ll book your ticket. You’re enrolling this year.”
Jimin has to bite the palm of his hand to suppress the sob that’s bubbles out of him. After taking steadying breaths, he gasps, “Imo-nim.”
“Your uncle Sejin will fetch you from the airport, you hear?” Aunt Miseon says. “Well, see you soon, chap. I can’t believe my sister…”
The call disconnects, leaving Jimin standing still at the traffic light while dozens of people walking past and around him. Someone bumps into his shoulder with a muttered apology. Someone’s dog’s fur brushes against Jimin’s jeans. A car honks.
He grins alone.
He’s going home.
(Quick break! Will resume in about an hour uwu. Meanwhile, please feel free to tell me what you think of the story’s flow, pace and characterizations are so far. I’m very excited about writing this arc!)
Of all the people he would have expected to send him off, Taemin was honestly one of the last on his list. Jimin didn’t the guy would want anything more to do with him after the breakup, but being the good guy he is, Taemin keeps true to his word about wanting to remain friends.
Before joining the line towards the departure hall, Jimin turns to his ex one last time, and gives a small, shaky sigh.
“Thanks for, um. Helping me with everything.”
Taemin folds his arms and shrugs. “No problem.” His gaze on Jimin borders on sympathetic. “Don’t hold back.”
Jimin tips his head in a birdlike manner. “Hold back from what?”
“Finding what makes you happy. I really hope it’s there,” Taemin says. “Just shoot your shot, Jimin. Call people if it gets tough. Doesn’t have to be me.”
Jimin’s eyes water, and he spread his arms wide. “Hyung~”
Taemin scoffs and lets Jimin hug him. “Look at you being all grown up.”
“I’m sorry again,” Jimin mumbles, a pang lancing through his heart.
“What did I tell you about apologizing. You’re gonna make me feel awkward!”
Jimin pouts. “Fine. I still don’t deserve this, though.”
Taemin steps back and gives both of Jimin’s shoulders a gentle squeeze. “Maybe nobody’s told you, but it’s okay to believe you deserve happiness, Park Jimin. It’s okay to want that. Got it?” He grins, turning Jimin around and giving him a small shove towards the departure halls.
Right before Jimin passes through the doors, he turns to Taemin again and says fleetingly, “Hyung!”
Taemin nods as if to say, /What?/
Jimin smiles tearily. “Thanks for being part of my happiness here. I mean it.”
Smiling softly, Taemin urges him on with a little wave. “Go.”
Jimin supposes if there’s an ideal final memory of Australia to go by, then Taemin’s smiling, farewell wave is as good as it gets.
It’s like having a thorn getting plucked out of his lungs. As Jimin’s plane takes off and soars into the clouds, so does his hammering little heart.
Next to Namjoon, Uncle Sejin is one of the tallest Korean men Jimin has ever laid eyes on. How can someone grow so /tall/ but look so… teddy-bear like?
“Have you eaten? Did they serve food on the plane?” is the first Uncle Sejin says while gathering Jimin’s luggage.
The question unexpectedly throws Jimin off-guard, leaving him standing frozen while his uncle hauls his stuff onto the back of his pickup truck.
It’s been so long since any adult older than him asked after his meals that Jimin feels a new wave of tears threatening to spill over.
A quick honk instantly snaps him back to the present. Jimin realizes he’s still standing by the road, his uncle having already hopped into the driver’s seat.
“Well? Not coming?”
Jimin lets out a small huff of pure, sweet relief, and rounds the truck to enter the passenger seat.
And so it goes, that on a chilly mid-February afternoon, uncle and nephew ride the expressway together for the first time.
It’s been around 3 years since Jimin’s last set foot in Korea. He’s lived in Busan all his life, so he’s got nothing to compare Seoul to.
The city is epic.
Like Busan, it’s teeming with skyscrapers and cars, but at one point they cross the Han River—something Jimin hasn’t personally seen before.
“Wah.” Although Busan’s shores are magnificent to behold, it feels different tracing the lengths of various bridges spanning the river.
He eventually falls asleep—Uncle Sejin is a smooth driver—and only finds himself being gently shaken awake a long while later. Jimin stirs slowly, looking around. The truck is already parked. If he remembers correctly, his aunt lives in one of the neighborhoods in central Seoul.
He hops out of the truck, taking a moment to admire the way the setting sun casts streaks of warm amber against the concrete pavement outside his aunt and uncle’s two-storey house.
Seoul. He’s really back in his homeland.
Jimin closes his eyes and inhales the crisp winter air.
A window from one of the upper-floor bedrooms slides open, and Aunt Miseon’s head pokes out. “Aiyayay. Is that Jiminie? Darling, are you back?“ At the sight of Jimin, she gasps. “Aigoo! Let me come down and take a look at you. Hoseok-ah, Hoseok-ah! Have you seen my slippers?”
“Yes, eomma!” another male voice answers from inside the house. Jimin guesses that must be his cousin, who’s just a year older than him.
“Hoseok, hurry along and help your father and cousin unload. I’ll get the stove ready!” Aunt Miseon’s voice is loud, unapologetically so.
As Jimin and Uncle Sejin unload his belongings from the truck, the sky blue metal gate creaks and swings inward to reveal a boy with brown hair and a sunny, dimpled grin that reminds Jimin of a heart shape.
“Eyyo, cousin!” Hoseon skips towards him, making gangsta hand gestures.
Jimin gives a small wave, tugging his big luggage along while Hoseok retrieves a duffle bag from him. “Long time no see.“
“Right? The last time we saw each other was at harabeoji’s wake! You used to be taller than me,” Hoseok teases. “How’s Australia? I heard it’s summer now.”
Jimin is more than heartened to find how easily he falls into conversation with his relatives, how warmly they welcome him as though there’s always been space for him in their small and tight-knit family.
“Hoseok’s an only child, but we’ve always wanted more,” says Aunt Miseon.
Jimin makes a curious sound. “Why didn’t you?”
Hoseok snickers. “By the time I was 5 and they wanted to try again, eomma was too old to conceive.”
“Unless you want to do the dishes for a month, be silent,” says Aunt Miseon. “It’s not my fault someone took too long to propose.”
Uncle Sejin shrugs, “I still proposed, though.”
“After I literally encouraged and planned it for you!” exlclaims Aunt Miseon, waving her chopsticks about in the air. “Do you remember what I said?”
“‘Don’t waste my time if you don’t plan to marry me’ hardly sounds inspiring.”
“Darling, we live in a fast-paced world,” Aunt Miseon says, piling Hoseok and Jimin’s bowls with pieces of grilled beef strips. “Would you have scored someone better than me if I hadn’t pushed you? With all of my suitors out there?”
“Yes, all hail,” Uncle Sejin says placatingly.
“Eat your veggies, Jimin-ah,” Hoseok says, leaning over to add more lettuce on Jimin’s bowl. “Don’t skimp out on nutrients!”
“Seok, want the beansprouts?” Uncle Sejin asks. “I got more.”
Jimin watches the gleam of chopsticks clamoring over the table, overwhelmed.
“Oh? What’s wrong, Jimin-ah?” Hoseok says in alarm. At once, all activity at the dining table ceases to a silent halt, three pairs of eyes falling onto Jimin’s tear-streaked face.
“Did the airline starve its passengers?” Aunt Miseon demands.
“Did I drive bad?” says Uncle Sejin.
Jimin shakes his head, covering his eyes with both palms as a shuddering exhale punches out of him, followed by aggressive hiccups. “This is— this is so nice,” he whispers, hating how whiny and pathetic he sounds. Like a pitiful child.
The family stares at him. Then—
He feels two arms wrap around his shoulders from behind, and when Jimin lifts his face out of his hands he realizes it’s Hoseok who’s holding him tight.
“Our Jiminie,” his cousin croons. “It’s been a tiring journey, yes?”
“He looks like he needs a nap,” remarks Aunt Miseon.
Uncle Sejin nods and pops a piece of meat into his mouth. Chewing, he adds, “Naps are good.”
Jimin’s sniffles die down, and Hoseok bounces back to his seat after using his own sweater sleeve to wipe Jimin’s eyes.
For the rest of dinner, Jimin blinks back tears from flowing.
Rather than take a nap right away, Jimin decides to stay awake until the proper bedtime to restart his body clock. After helping to clean the table, he excuses himself to step out for a brief walk around the area.
What he finds makes him gasp.
The world is blanketed in white.
Jimin rushes back in to tug some proper boots on. “It’s- it’s snowing!” he gushes excitedly to his cousin’s family. “Outside, now! Snow.”
Hoseok and his parents regards him from the sofa, eyes dancing with amusement and a softness that makes Jimin feel safe. “Oh? Wanna play?”
“I- I’ll just walk about for a bit,” Jimin replies, mentally telling himself to keep it together. It’s just snowfall. No need to get overexcited like a kid on Christmas Eve. “Be back soon!”
He tugs on a coat & strides out of the house, boots crunching against the packed snow.
It never snows on Perth, so it has literally been 3 years since Jimin has frolicked over the shredded ice or marvelled at the dainty way snowflakes fall. In pleasant spirits, he finds himself hopping and skipping out of the neighborhood, and closer to the public shopping areas.
The sight of snow seems to tickle the 16-year-old in him, some tucked away part of Jimin that had stayed intact and locked in time at the age he left South Korea.
He reaches a crosswalk near a line of brightly-lit shops, one of which is blasting music into the frigid night air.
/I personify the 'adolescent on a phone'
Speaking like I'm bigger than my body
I personify that lack of freedom in your life/
There’s a park on the other side of the road. Jimin whistles softly and sways back and forth while waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green.
The snow is falling heavier now, and other pedestrians around Jimin are putting up their umbrellas. Amidst a flurry of snowflakes & a sea of black umbrellas, Jimin stands out as the only man happily basking in the snowfall.
The pedestrian light turns green. Jimin steps forward.
Somewhere on the pedestrian crosswalk is a blurry middle ground where two sets of crowds meet, either one going in the opposite direction. Some rando wearing an oversized hoodie bumps shoulders and hurries past Jimin, making him grunt.
He looks down on the ground and bends down.
It looks like that person dropped a keychain, a little brown poodle hanging from a silver keyring. Jimin picks it up and hurries back the way he came.
“Excuse me!” he cries, tapping the keychain owner. “I think you dropped this.”
The guy turns, his hood low, covering his eyes.
From the line of shops across the street, music keeps soaring into the wintry night.
/This must be my dream—
Wide awake before I found you./
The hooded pedestrian snatches the keychain from Jimin’s hand and bows hastily, barely making eye contact before rushing away.
And since they’re still right in the middle of the crosswalk, Jimin cringes and scuttles to the opposite direction, afraid to get trapped in the middle in case the light turns red.
What a strange guy. Who gets that possessive over a doggy keychain anyway—
He barely got a good look at that keychain, but he’d be lying if the sight of it didn’t trigger a very specific memory. Something related to an arcade, a claw machine, and a certain boy from Daegu.
The pedestrian light turns red just as Jimin reaches the other side of the road.
Jimin scoffs in disbelief and spins on his heel, scanning the crowd in a frenzy. It can’t be, can it…?
Around him, the song continues to blast, as though mocking him.
/I can't wait for you, boy
(Wake me from my dream)
What does all our love amount to?/
The crowd is too thick.
The traffic light turns green. Legions of vehicles flood the road, further blocking the other side of the street from view. Jimin lingers back, stuck at one side, pulse too quick for his own liking.
He runs a hand over his hair.
Yoongi is in Daegu. It couldn’t have been, right?
TO BE CONTINUED.
Hehe. How did you feel about this update? :]
Thank you for staying up with me.
Please consider supporting my savings for my summer exchange program this year
“So the keys are all are kept in the second drawer under the cash register,” Hoseok says, rounding his family’s café counter while Jimin trails after him like an obedient puppy. “Remember—green sticker for the front door, blue sticker for the back.”
Jimin nods, taking notes.
Aunt Miseon may be warm & generous, but she does keep track of promises people make to her.
As soon as everyone gathered for breakfast the next morning after Jimin’s arrival, she piped up, “Hoseokie, won’t you show Jimin around the café later? Let him get a feel of the space.”
Two hours later finds Jimin and Hoseok at The Cacao Crushers the next street over, with Jimin taking every new bit of information with nary a yip of complaint. It’s not too bad. All that part-time experience has made him flexible and adaptable to new environments right away.
Whilst Hoseok briefs him on the store’s policies and F&B do’s and don’ts, Jimin spies two other employees clocking in for the morning shift. One of them is a woman with a modelesque build, her brown hair long and silky. The other is a man with greying hair and a kind smile.
“Ah, good morning!” Hoseok greets, his face already breaking out into a bright, warm grin. “Meet our new part-timer, my cousin Jimin. Jiminie, say hi to Seohyun noona and Kangwoo hyung. They’ve been holding down the fort since I was in high school.”
Jimin’s mouth parts open in awe as he bows and introduces himself in full honorifics. “You only have two full-timers?”
Hoseok shrugs. “We have high school part-timers who come and go all the time. I help out on most weekends. And now we have you, too. More fun for us.” He winks.
Jimin can’t help but grin back. He doesn’t know how Hoseok does it—carries himself with so much level-headed assurance and vitality that everyone who comes within a meter-radius of him will instantly feel soothed. One does not simply meet Jung Hoseok without wanting to trust him.
Technically, it’s not yet his first official training shift yet, but Jimin asks (begs) Hoseok to take him through The Cacao Crusher’s table and ordering system anyway. He relishes in the approving glance Hoseok sends his way before proceeding to brief him on the cafè’s seating.
“We go by odd numbers. Table 1, 3, 5, and so on until the far wall,” Hoseok explains. “Oh, and there are some tables that our regular customers like to designate, too. See there, next to the shelf? For our Friday regular. Table 7 by the window is off-limits on Tuesday nights.”
“What’s so special about Table 7?” asks Jimin.
“It’s for the Decaf Dude. He comes every Tuesday night to do his work until closing.” Hoseok gives a casual shrug. “Been coming here for a while now. Anyway, that’s his spot.”
“What happens if it’s taken?”
“Trust me, it won’t be.”
Jimin nods, giving Table 7’s cozy spot one last lingering look before following Hoseok towards the counter.
“What’s this?” he asks, picking up a plain black A4-sized leather notebook next to the decorative ornaments on the counter. He flips it open and raises his eyebrows.
Pages and pages of art stare back at him, drawn in varying ink colors and accompanied by handwritten little notes.
“Oh, it’s for our customers to doodle in whatever they feel like. Just a fun thing,” says Hoseok.
“It was my idea~” Seohyun titters from behind the coffee machine.
Jimin whistles low, nodding in wonder at the different types of caricatures he finds on every page, before stopping short when his eyes land in a particular doodle of a boy who looks like a bao head. There’s no name signed.
A snort escapes Jimin. It’s kinda ugly, in a cute way.
“Jimin-ah?” Hoseok calls, making him look up and close the notebook. “Let me show you where the cups are stacked to dry…”
“Yes, coming!” Jimin puts the noteback back on the counter, ignoring the small, prickly voice at the back of his mind telling him to… to what?
The next half an hour is spent going over more opening shift responsibilities that Jimin hopes he can remember before his first shift. By now, customers are steadily streaming in. Hoseok is in the middle of explaining how the silverware is arranged when the entrance bell chimes.
“Welcome,” Hoseok greets enthusiastically, and Jimin looks up in time to see—
His heart lurches, and a loud breath huffs out of him. There, standing in front of him dressed in hoodies and padded coats, are none other than—
“Hyung!” Jungkook waves, smiling wide, cheeks pink.
Next to him stands Namjoon, one arm slung over Jungkook’s shoulders with a sleepy grin. “Hey, hey.”
It’s been years. The last time Jimin saw them, Jungkook was shorter than him and Namjoon’s chest didn’t look quite so thick.
Without his permission, a squeaky whine bubbles out.
With a strangled yelp, Jimin sprints around the counter and practically hurls himself into his childhood friends’ warm hugs, public stares be damned.
“You guys,” Jimin bawls into Jungkook’s coat. He has to tiptoe to even bury his face into the crook of Jungkook’s neck!
The sight of his tears must rattle Jungkook, because his ex-neighbor’s smile is quick to transform into a teary frown. “H-hyung, oiyoyoyoy. Why are you crying?” Jungkook’s arm curls around Jimin as he, too, starts sniffling in the middle of the café. “You’re so embarrassing!”
Namjoon ruffles Jimin’s hair. “Blonde, huh?” He clears his throat, glassy eyes red, and looks up at the ceiling as though attempting to quell his emotions. “Let’s get some seats.”
“Thanks for coming when I texted you two,” Jimin murmurs, still squished between them.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Namjoon says as he makes a beeline for Table 3, next to the shelves. “Jungkook begged me to convince his parents to let him make the trip from Busan.”
“I’m staying the weekend with Namjoon-hyung,” Jungkook informs proudly.
Jimin cranes his neck and looks to Hoseok in an unspoken request for permission to sit with his friends, beaming with relief when Hoseok shoos him away, mouthing, “Go ahead.”
It’s not his official shift, after all. Jimin dives for a seat between Jungkook and Namjoon, crooning.
“Hyung,” Jungkook says in a dead serious tone, eyes dark. “Please be honest. How could you…”
Jimin’s chest tightens as his mind plays back the hundreds of ways he’s rebelled or fucked something up in the last few years. “Huh?”
“How could you age without growing taller? HAHA!”
Jimin’s blissed out, tearful expression smoothens into a blank face. “Why you little brat… come here, come here!”
Poking out his tongue, Jungkook ducks behind Namjoon’s shoulder. “If you want to get to me, you need to beat hyung, first.” He squeezes Namjoon’s hand.
Namjoon squeezes back and nicks the tip of Jungkook’s nose with a knuckle.
That’s new. The gesture doesn’t escape Jimin, but he doesn’t comment on it either. Calming down, he sinks back into his chair, regarding his childhood friends with renewed wonder. What a pair they make.
“So where did you enrol?” Namjoon asks after they’ve made their orders. “And what course are you interested in?”
“KU. I was debating between business and advertising & media, but we decided to go with the latter,” Jimin says. “I’m nervous. First orientation day is this Monday.”
Namjoon claps. “Sweet. I’m doing political science there, so we’ll see more of each other.
“What could you possible be nervous about?” Jungkook asks, face scrunched up. “You’re back in Korea! Home!”
Jimin exhales, smiling. In many ways, he still can’t believe it. “Yeah. Home.”
“Does your dad know you’re back?” Namjoon asks.
Jimin scoffs, then shakes his head. “Why should I let him know? It’s not like he reached out to us at all in Australia.”
“Makes sense.” Namjoon takes a sup of his drink. “What about him?”
“Your penpal!” Jungkook says.
Jimin squirms in his seat, slipping his hands under his thighs to keep them from fidgeting. For the first time in a long time, he becomes keenly aware of the weight of the necklace over breastbone. He clears his throat. “We lost touch. It was a… silly high school infatuation.“
“What was his name again?” Jungkook hums, eyes wandering to the ceiling as though to retrieve some vital information from his head. “Yoon… Yoon-something. Yoonshik?”
“Do not mention his cursed name,” Jimin hisses, feeling the hairs on his arms rise.
“Eh? Hit a sore spot?”
Jimin can feel Namjoon’s knowing gaze pinned to him, but he ignores it and continues addressing Jungkook. “I kinda hate his guts. He ghosted me.”
It’s not untrue.
Namjoon may know how they lost contact, but he doesn’t know how much of a loser Jimin made himself by confessing.
And Jimin most certaintly does NOT want to share his failures and sob story in that department, not when he’s just met his friends again after a long time. “Anyway, it’s whatever. I was too busy with my boyfriend in Australia, so—“
“YOU HAD A BOYFRIEND?” Jungkook’s eyes widen.
“Shhh,” Jimin hisses frantically, eyes darting about the café. “No need to broadcast it.”
“What’s his name?” Namjoon leans forward.
“Taemin. And he- we’re not together anymore.”
Jungkook wrinkles his nose. “Nooo.”
“Yeah,” Jimin says, leaning back. “We broke up before I left.”
“Huh.” Namjoon frowns. “How come we knew all about your penpal, but not your boyfriend whom you /dated/ for… how long…?”
“About a year.”
“A /year/.” Namjoon lets out a whistle. “Wah, Jimin, you’ve grown UP up.”
“Should we start calling him Jimin-ssi now?” Jungkook asks him.
Jimin rolls his eyes. “Oh, please.”
Jungkook takes a deep breath, turns to him, and then reaches over to shake Jimin’s hand vigorously. “Ah. Park Jimin-ssi, so pleased so make your acquaintance today,” he says in honorifics. “Let’s get along well in the future.”
“Cut it ouuut.”
“Oh, you wound me, Jimin-sshhhiii.”
Jimin suppresses a bark of laughter by standing up and heading towards Hoseok. “I shouldn’t have invited you two here, you’re so rowdy!”
“I would’ve seen you around anyway,” Namjoon says, grinning. “This café is my favorite Friday hangout.”
“Jimin-ah,” Hoseok says as Jimin returns to where he’s rearranging fresh ingredients. “I had no idea you were friends with our Friday regular!”
Jimin hooks a thumb behind him. “He’s the Table 3 guy?“
“Always by the bookshelves, yep.” Hoseok waves cheerily at Namjoon.
Jimin glances back to where his friends are seated, softening at the way Jungkook gazes at Namjoon, who’s talking animatedly with his hands.
“Your buddies seem nice,” says Hoseok.
When Jungkook catches Jimin’s eye, he mouths, /Jimin-sshhii./
Jimin raises his middle finger.
The campus is tenfold bigger than it seemed in the pictures. Jimin takes slow, calming breaths as he approaches the foyer, pinching his wrist just to make sure he’s not in some medieval set.
Nearby, fellow freshmen are filing into queues for the orientation camp registration.
“Wah, this is mad,” a baritone dripping thick with Daegu’s trademark satoori says from behind Jimin.
He turns and finds a guy around his age in a firetruck red leather jacket and poofy, poodle-like chestnut brown hair raising his phone camera to take a picture of the building.
Jimin scoots aside to let the guy take as many pictures as he wants, then watches as he struggles to take a perfect selca angle.
“Want me to help?” Jimin offers, stepping forward.
“Ah, a Busan boy!” Leather Jacket exclaims, much to Jimin’s surprise. “Yes, if you could, ayye.”
Jimin scratches his head sheepishly with one hand, taking the stranger’s phone in the other. He honestly thought he had shed his Gyeongsang accent long ago. Perhaps being around somebody who speaks satoori brings it out of him, too.
Leather Jacket grins and makes a peace sign.
“1, 2, 3– say kimchi,” Jimin says, tapping on the stranger’s face to adjust the camera’s focus before snapping the photo.
“Could you help me do a jump shot? I swore to my friend I’d send him one after I got to his uni’s campus, heh,” Leather Jacket requests.
Jimin indulges him.
Afterwards, he returns the phone to Leather Jacket, who taps him on the shoulder and says, “Kim Taehyung. Freshman. And you?”
“Uh- Park Jimin.”
“Great. Jimin, I now pronounce you my first friend in Seoul. I’m from Daegu and my mbti is ENFP and INFP, depending on the weather.”
Jimin nods, shouldering his backpack tighter as he follows Kim Taehyung to join the registration queue together. “Um. I guess mine’s ENFJ?”
Taehyung strokes his chin. “That makes us compatible. Do you like spicy food?”
“Okay. Take the spicy when we eat together.”
“Is this a job interview or something?” Jimin half-jokes, chuckling under his breath. Something about Kim Taehyung is so… vivacious and refreshing, as if he has a universe’s worth of life to live in his body.
“My parents say uni friends are ride-or-die pals. This IS business.”
Jimin laughs into his hand, eyes crinkling. Utterly charmed. “Okay. Okay.”
“Also, I gotta be honest, it was the blonde hair. Much flavor, peak style,” Taehyung quips, sending Jimin a thumbs up. “You nice, keep going.”
Mimicking his gesture, Jimin echoes, “You nice, keep going.”
Unfortunately for them, fate doesn’t seem too keen to give them a helping hand. Taehyung gets sorted into a different orientation group (Team Green), while Jimin gets lumped into another (Team Red).
“But it’s okay,” says Taehyung, and they part after exchanging TikTok usernames.
The theme of this year’s freshman orientation camp is Squid Game. For the entirety of Monday to Wednesday, Jimin’s cohort is made to play leadership and team games that would earn them points. One of them is a dance battle, and he goes head-to-head with Taehyung at the finals.
As they approach the dance-off stage, Taehyung puffs out his chest and declares, “So we meet again, Agent Park.”
And although Jimin never made a prior agreement to partake in any form of role play, Taehyung’s magnetic playfulness compels him to jerk his chin up. “Indeed, Kim.”
“What makes you think YOU will bring home the grand prize?” Taehyung says as they start circling one another.
Jimin glances at the ‘Squid Game Prize’ at the podium—a transparent piggy bank full of student meal vouchers.
He smirks. “I’ve been covering BTZ songs for years.”
“Hah. So am I. You happen to be talking to Daegu’s one and only BTZ Superfan.”
“And you are currently in the presence of Busan’s No. 1 BTZ Dance Cover Artist.” Before Jimin left Busan, he had 1k TikTok followers. Beat that!
“Well, let the results decide,” Taehyung says slyly.
The speakers blasts “Not Tomorrow”, and Taehyung immediately swaggers onto the stage. Cheers and whoops sound from Team Green.
Jimin’s eyes light up when the song changes to “Make It Left”. His hips start gyrating to the beat, and he shimmies to center stage. His team SCREAMS.
Soon they both collapse to the gymnasium floor while panting, faces red and sweaty and utterly spent. Meanwhile, the emcee announces:
“And the winner of this year’s Dance-Off is…BOTH!”
Jimin catches Taehyung wide eyes for a solid three seconds.
Then they explode into giggles.
Pausing here for now!!
So who should have won the dance battle? I leave the floor to you with a poll.
Side note: I know this is a yoonmin AU, but even as the writer I feel SO deeply for their friendships… writing non-romantic scenes can be so fun!
Team Red wins.
The grand prize—more vouchers, this time for the campus bookstore—is split among Jimin’s groupmates, as per their leader Chaeyeon’s suggestion. Soon, both of the freshman teams are being ushered back into the gymnasium for the orientation camp’s closing ceremony.
He spots Taehyung easily among the crowd of students milling about; the poofy chocolate hair isn’t quite a common sight among a sea of dark-haired Koreans. Taehyung catches his eye, waves, then jogs over to sit next to Jimin, team segregation be damned.
“Here,” Taehyung says, passing Jimin a slip of paper full of names and numbers.
Jimin squints down at it. “What’s this?”
“A list of seniors and their contact numbers. We’re in the same course, right? There’s an internal economy of textbook borrowing here; it’s an open secret.”
“Daebak,” Jimin whispers under his breath, eyes going wide. There are at least 10 names on the sheet in his hand. “How did you manage to compile this?”
Taehyung flashes him a box-shaped smile, and winks. “Toilet trips. Met a guy named Sungjae, and the rest is history.”
“Do you DO anything in the bathroom other than your business?” Jimin asks, half-amused and half-impressed.
“You’re a guy. You’d know how sacred the toilet is,” Taehyung answers with a completely somber look, one hand pressed to his heart. “In this economy, we respect the loo.”
“Respect the loo,” Jimin parrots, nodding.
Just then, microphone static ekes throughout the gymnasium, making the entire student body cringe. A young lady in a white sweater and jeans walks to the stage and taps the mic.
“Ah, ah. Mic test.” She smiles. “Hello, freshmen!”
The giant projector screen behind her flashes to a powerpoint presentation titled in bold English and Korean font, “Your Mental Health Matters”.
“Congrats on getting through your first camp with us. I’m sure everyone has worked hard to get here. I’m student counsellor Kim Hana.”
“2 years ago, a group of psychology seniors kickstarted an extra-curricular club promoting mental health awareness at the tertiary level of education,” Hana says, pacing the stage. “South Korea has one of the highest depression statistics in the world. We need to make a change.”
The slide on the projector screen transitions to a rural cottage with a bright red mailbox next to the door, foregrounded by a a garden of colorful flowers. The slide’s header reads, “Garden Post”.
Hana continues, “But people tend to be more comfortable when they’re anonymous.”
A murmur of agreement ripples through the freshmen audience. Jimin catches Taehyung’s eye, who nods. It’s true—in a country as communal as South Korea, blending in is the goal. Collectivism over individualism. Nobody wants to stand out or be singled out for being /different/.
“Which is why my friends and I have launched the Garden Post initiative,” Kim Hana declares, mouth curling upwards. “Feeling down or stressed? You can write to any of our counsellors using an alias, no pressure. In turn, our counsellors will use /their/ chosen flower names, too.”
Jimin tries his best not to let his growing interest show. The offer is too tempting, because he HAS been doing some research on therapy services in Seoul. Although it’s gotten a little bit better in recent years, the barriers to entry for a student are still too high. Expensive.
The next slide shows a list of flowers with little smiley faces doodles on their buds.
“So, if Kim NoName-ssi wants a correspondence with Counsellor Rose, they may print out the Garden Post form found on our website and post it to our red mailbox at the Student Services Office.”
Kim Hana spends the next ten minutes to explain the details of the rest of the Garden Post’s system and procedures. Jimin glances about the gymnasium and notes with some dismay how majority of his cohort-mates are yawning away or texting with their phones on their laps.
A hand shoots up in the air—Team Red’s leader, Chaeyeon. She tilts her chin up to voice out, “How can we trust that we would remain anonymous?”
“Whatever nickname you use will be the name given to the student counsellors,” Hana answers. “They won’t know you.”
Chaeyeon nods and leans back in her seat, pacified.
After going through some of the initiative’s policies—no written abuse, no indecent language—Kim Hana wraps up the presentation with a bow and walks offstage to the sound of polite applause. Another figure walks onstage.
Jimin recognizes him as 1 of the faculty members who had hosted the opening ceremony. He smiles as the projector screen slowly ascends. “This concludes this year’s orientation camp! We hope all of you made some good memories & friends. Congratulations once again, and good night.”
The gymnasium’s blinding fluorescent lights turn on one by one, and shortly after the crowd begins to disperse towards the main double doors.
“Alriiight, gather up, everyone!” one of Team Red’s moodmakers, Hyunjin, claps his hands and beckons the group over. “Drinks later?”
Team Red cheers in agreement, and the next thing Jimin knows, he’s being dragged to a night BBQ restaurant near the campus. Sitting at one corner of a long table, he does his best to chant along the drinking games and hoots when the grill gets smoky. He wishes Taehyung were here.
Too bad Team Green has their own celebration party, too. It’s not that Jimin isn’t friendly—he gets along just fine with everyone at his table. It’s just that there’s something about Taehyung’s quiet intuition (despite his flamboyant vivaciousness) that feels so grounding to him.
“Ah, it’s almost 11:11!” one of the freshmen girls exclaims, cheeks already pinking. Jimin recalls her name as Sohee. “Everyone, make a wish!”
“What kind of wish?” asks Chaeyeon.
Hyunjin snaps his fingers. “What we wanna pursue after graduation!”
“Okay! What are your dreams?”
Jimin racks his brain, but comes up blank. Must be the alcohol. He shrugs, but the group doesn’t really seem to clock his response.
“I’ll be a restauranteur,” Chaeyeon asserts.
“Civil engineer!” chimes Hyunjin. “Gonna start my own company.”
“Fashion designer for me!”
There are certain instances in life where the air seems to thicken, and time trickles to a slow halt. Jimin studies his teammates, feeling more hollow & distant from them despite this being a group bonding session.
Jimin feels so old in comparison.
He indulges himself in wondering: why? How come his new acquaintances already seem aware of where they are, and know where they want to be? Look at those faces. So assured. He realizes—
/Ah. They’re hopeful./
What must it be like, not to anticipate disappointment at every turn?
“Somi-ah, Somi-ah, are you really going to apply to that British magazine for an internship? As a freshman?” the girl next to Jimin gushes.
Somi shrugs. “I’ve got time to decide. We’ll see. How about you? Going for that translation gig?”
Jimin purses his lips.
“Wah,” he manages, forcing whatever energy he can muster into his voice. He should at least try. “You guys all know what you want, that’s awesome. Daebak, really.”
“What about you, Jimin?” Hyunjin fixes his gsze on him. “Any plans?”
How does Jimin say, /I never had time to/?
He can’t even begin to parse his own apprehension, let alone share it with a group of new friends. Instead, throat burning, he gives a one-shouldered shrug that he hopes comes off as nonchalant. “Ah, well, I’m just your regular guy-next-door. Probably find a company after grad.”
Hyunjin snickers and reaches over to give him a friendly tap on the back. “C’mon, surely you can be more creative than that. You have your entire future ahead of you, dude! We’ve got time, right? Isn’t that what youth is all about?” He stands up and raises his glass. “To youth!”
Everyone rises and extends their arms to meet in the middle of the table, shouting in unison, “To youth!”
Jimin feigns a grin, mouthing the words but not vocalizing them.
The soju that burns a line down his throat is bitter.
He stares up at the ceiling, lying eagle-spread on top of his bed. Thinking about everything and nothing all at once.
It’s the first time he’s felt so at home yet out of place in South Korea. It seems as if the Park Jimin who left three years ago isn’t the same.
If only there was somebody he could talk to about this. Technically, there’s Hoseok, but does Jimin really feel comfortable enough with his cousin already?
He could talk to Namjoon, but he seems busy. Jungkook is an option too. Except he might end up steering the topic to gaming.
He sits up, eyes difting to the laptop on his desk. Kim Hana’s earlier presentation flashes in his mind. /No pressure/, she had reassured.
Jimin rolls off his bed and logs onto his campus’ online portal, clicking onto The Garden Post. He scrolls & downloads the kickstarter form.
There are quite a few ‘Flower Advisors’ to choose to correspond with. Just like their patrons, they go by their respective nicknames, too. Jimin’s eyes scan down the webpage. There’s Lilac, Tulip, Rose, Orchid, Dandelion—
Jimin scowls. He’s definitely NOT picking that one.
Since he doesn’t really care which anonymous counsellor he gets in touch with, he randomly chooses the one nicknamed Chrysanthemum at the bottom of the list, and then spends a solid half an hour of handwriting:
He posts the letter on Thursday morning, and is pleasantly surprised to be contacted by the Student Services Office to pick up his mail the following afternoon. Before starting his training shift at the Cacao Crushers, Jimin unfolds the letter and finds a typed, printed response:
—To be continued!
Thanks for tuning in. Any thoughts on how the story has turned out so far? :D
If you like my writing, please consider getting me a cuppa coffee to help with my funds for my summer exchange program in KU
A typed letter.
Jimin isn’t quite sure how to feel about that. There’s something a little… clinical about it. Not that he’s offended by his designated counsellor’s answer; it’s not exactly something that speaks to him. Maybe at 16, he’d have loved it.
He sits and types back:
“What’s that?” Hoseok nods to the little white envelope poking from between the pages of Jimin’s textbook the next day. They’d agreed to meet up on campus for lunch before their respective classes.
“Oh.” Jimin glances at his letter, biting his lower lip. Should he tell? “This.”
“Ooohh, getting love letters on your first week? As expected of my cool Aussie cousin,” Hoseok teases, which makes Jimin cringe.
“Yah, I’m a Korean person through and through,” Jimin retaliates, putting on his heaviest Busan satoori. “Anyway. That’s for the, um. Garden Post.”
He licks his lower lip in silence, already inwardly bracing himself while anticipating laughter from his cousin.
Hoseok does none of that. He hums, eyes lighting up, and studies Jimin with surprise and interest. “That’s really cool. I’ve always wanted to try writing.”
“Mmhmm. I tend to get stressed before exams. Got my neuroticism from my eomma,” Hoseok says.
Jimin’s shoulders relax, and he lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “They reply pretty fast.”
“How are their answers like?”
“Not bad. But it’s all printed.” Jimin pouts.
Hoseok hums again. “I guess it’s a standard procedure? Helps with the anonymity and all.”
“Right.” Jimin is probably just being childish—all this, after he went through the effort of making sure his penmanship was in neat little blocks! “I prettified my handwriting for nothing.”
Hoseok gives a good-natured snort. “At least now you know you can just type, too. Anyway, your second training shift starts at 5pm later, okay? We’ll go over the closing procedures slowly.”
Since he had orientation camp from Monday to Wednesday, Jimin’s shifts got pushed back.
He sends Hoseok a mock salute. “Roger that. Watch out, I’m gunning for Employee of The Month.”
“We don’t have that kind of thing.”
“Well, then I’ll be the first,” Jimin states proudly.
Hoseok just grins and pats his cheek lovingly, making him want to curl up while blushing.
He drops off his reply in the mailbox at the Student Services Office, which is in the second floor of the admin building. There are a number of students inside, all queueing and attending to first-week logistic matters.
Jimin turns away and pushes the glass door to step out just as an unseen voice exclaims somewhere in the inner office, “Wah, to what to we owe seeing everyone’s favorite rockstar in the first week of school?”
“Knock it off,” a quiet voice answers. “Just here to pick up my shit.”
That gravelly, muted baritone sounds oddly… familiar. Jimin frowns, and turns his head—
“Hewwooooooo!” someone’s excited whoop snatches his attention away. There, from the end of the corridor outside the office, Taehyung appears and hops over. “Yo, yo. What’s crackin’, my bro.”
At once, Jimin feels his lips pull back in a fierce grin as he steps out of the office and meets Taehyung’s fist bump. “I was just settling some stuff.”
“Ooh, same.” Taehyung says. “I got some miscellaneous fees to pay on the counter. Wanna wait for me?”
“Sorry, I have work…”
Taehyung’s mouth forms an ‘o’ shape. “Go, go.” He ushers Jimin ahead. “I’ll seeya on Monday. Let’s grab lunch? Yes or yes? Okay, swag.” He licks his thumbs and smooths back his eyebrows before entering the office. “Have a nice shift!”
Jimin chuckles. “Sure. Have a good weekend.”
As it turns out, Jimin doesn’t even have to wait until Monday to run into Taehyung again.
On Saturday evening, while Hoseok & Seohyun drill him on the differences between a flat white and a piccolo latte, the bell to Cacao Crushers rings as the glass door swings open.
“Hi, I know you guys are closing in like, 30 minutes but I am DESPESRATE to get away— EH?” Taehyung’s face goes slack and his wildly gesturing arms drop by his sides. He stands at the door looking at Jimin. “Park Jimin?”
Jimin waves from behind the bar countertop. “What’s up.”
He giggles, practically envisioning the gears turning rapidly in Taehyung’s mind. Spreading his arms with a flourish, he adds, “Welcome to my aunt’s café.”
Clarity dawns on Taehyung’s eyes. “Ooooh. So this is where you work part time.”
“Yep.” Jimin turns to Hoseok. “A friend.”
“Ah.” Hoseok leans over the bar counter, tips his head to one side, and flashes Taehyung one of his winning, dimpled smiles, the corners of his eyes turning upwards. “Heya, friend of Jimin.”
Taehyung blinks at him, then gulps. “Are you guys… still open?”
Jimin hesitates. “Um.”
He glances at Hoseok, who meets his eye and shrugs.
“He’s your friend, so…” With a slow-spreading grin, Hoseok nods once. To Taehyung, he calls out, “Come in.”
Taehyung doesn’t need to be told twice. He scampers in, drapes himself over the counter and says in English, “Hello.”
Hoseok laughs, loud and unabashed. “Oh, you’re a friendly one.”
“I’m all for equality,” Taehyung announces, combing a hand through his hair. “But I must admit I’m partial to sunshine. Are you our senior in uni?”
“Uh. Year 2.”
“I have a couple of Year 2 friends you might know.”
Hoseok stares at him for another full minute, before he throws his head back and starts laughing while slapping Jimin’s shoulder. “Oh, Jiminie. I can see why you’re friends with him. Friendly dude. Good one, bro.” He hands Taehyung the menu. “I’ll give you a discount for that.”
Jimin cringes internally as Taehyung gapes at his cousin. “Did you not hear what I just said? Roses are red, violets are blue—“
Hoseok reaches out to pat his poofy hair. “How about hot chocolate for you?“
Oh, oh, this is painfully funny to watch. Jimin wants to laugh-cry.
Taehyung’s expression looks torn between being impressed and on the verge of tears. He looks ballistic, but in an I-don’t-need-coffee-to-be-delirious way. “How choco’s great.”
“Coming right up.” Hoseok shuffles away, whistling.
Jimin inches closer to Taehyung. “So—Jung Hoseok.”
“Even his name sounds cool,” swoons Taehyung, clasping his hands together. “Also, did you hear the way he completely matched my poem’s rhyme? He could be a rapper in another life.”
“‘Roses are red, violets are blue’ isn’t hard to match, but okay,” concedes Jimin. “He’s in Lit.”
“He’s in my head, too,” Taehyung remarks. “And soon, my heart.”
Jimin groans and playfully shoves him. “That’s gonna give me nightmares, dude.”
Snickering, Taehyung straightens from his position on the countertop, stretching his back. “This café’s nice.”
“First time here, mm?”
“Yeah. My roommate’s a bit of a… wild party guy. Picture this: a white frat boy,” Taehyung shares, shaking his head with a sour expression. “I love me my parties, but tonight I just wanted some peace to review the first week’s lectures, and Junhyung brought his girlfriend over.”
Jimin nods in sympathy. Not that he’s ever had a roommate, but he’s had years of playing nice with a stepdad his mother had abruptly brought into the house, which he supposes is at least some substantial experience to go by. “Sounds like a handful.”
“He grew up in America, so.”
“Hot choco!” Seohyun calls out from from the serving station, cutting their talk short. “You can collect your order here.”
“No, no, it’s alright,” Hoseok tells her. He smiles at Taehyung. “You can take a seat, Jiminie’s friend.”
“It’s Kim Taehyung.”
“Okay Kim Taehyung, sit.”
Taehyung’s eyes go round as little moons, and he backtracks from the countertop while mouthing to Jimin, “This is my favorite café now.”
Jimin smiles, massaging his temples. Seriously, how did he get looped into this?
He receives a reply from Chrysanthemum on Monday morning, another typed-out letter.
/That’s more like it/, Jimin thinks. This is closer to the kind of advice he’d been hoping to read from the get-go. Whoever Chrysanthemum is, she seems like the kind of person who knows how to adjust to her correspondent.
After his classes, he sits down to send a new reply.
On Tuesday evening, Jimin is whisked away to the café’s freezer as the other, middle-aged full-timer Kangwoo rattles off the ingredients, expiry dates, what should be defrosted and how to properly do so. He nods and takes down notes until his teeth start to chatter.
Outside, he hears muffled orders being called out.
“One matcha latte!” Seohyun cries.
“One decaf for take-out!” Probably Hoseok.
Much later, Jimin emerges to the main floor trembling in the padded jacket that Seohyun had tossed him before his shift. By now, the sun has set.
Jimin shrugs off the jacket and ties the official Cacao Crushers beige apron and resumes his order-taking role. After clearing Table 5, he turns to head towards the kitchen.
Then he pauses.
Table 7 is occupied… but by a group of chattering high school girls.
“Hyung.” He rushes to Hoseok’s side and lowers his voice to a panicked whisper. “Table 7 is occupied. I thought you said we should keep it free for the Decaf Dude.”
Hoseok looks over his shoulder from the smoothie he’s blending. “Oh. He came by already. Take-out. Had a gig, so.”
Jimin nods, a sigh of relief whistling out of him. Well, that’s assurance that one of their regular patrons won’t suddenly feel disappointed by their service. “Gig, huh.”
“Apparently he does music, or something. I don’t know him personally. Seohyun-noona, whipped cream please.”
An hour before closing, the entrance door’s bells chime to let in none other than Kim Taehyung, bright-eyed and eye-catching in a printed shirt tucked into plain grey slacks. “I have returned. At long last.”
“We just saw each other at lecture,” Jimin snorts, clearing tables.
“My words were meant for—“ Taehyung pauses when Hoseok waltzes in from the kitchen’s double doors, then tucks a loose curl behind his ear.
Jimin rolls his eyes. “Take a seat, then. What is it with you and coming when it’s closing hours?”
“I just came from an underground show.”
Trust Kim Taehyung to be a part of any happenin scene, despite being the new kid on the block. How does he even have /time/? Jimin can only wonder.
“I’m guessing you went to watch K-Pop dance covers at Hongdae.“
“Yah, it’s Tuesday. No dance covers. But yes, I /was/ in Hongdae.”
Taehyung sashays over to the seat nearest to the counter—where he has the best vantage point of Hoseok’s usual post—and says, “Chim, have you ever heard of the band, Blue & Grey?”
“That’s alright. They’re indie. Anyway. I went to watch their gig. I have a friend there.”
“Oooh. You really DO know your networks in Seoul,” Jimin quips absently, unloading used cups and dirty plates into the sink. In a way, Taehyung reminds him of Jackson. That funny dude.
Australia feels so long ago.
“Yeah. He’s the reason I’m here tonight,” Taehyung states.
“Yeah?” Jimin says, wiping his hands. He glances at the wall clock next to the kitchen door. If he washes the dirty utensils and dishes fast enough maybe he can convince Hoseok to close early.
“He recommended this café! Which is why”—Taehyung takes a deep breath—“I’m appplying.”
Jimin blinks. Slowly, he faces his friend. “You’re… here for what?”
Taehyung hooks a thumb at the hiring poster tacked to the glass door. “You’re looking for part-timers. I need money.”
“Is that so?” Seohyun chimes as she walks past, carrying a mop. “That’d be a great help.”
“Is that a new hire I’m hearing about?” Kangwoo’s head pokes out from behind the kitchen doors. “One of our high schoolers just quit. You’ll fit right in. What do you think, Hoseok?”
“Huh?” Hoseok’s head pops out from behind the countertop. “Sorry, I was sorting the receipts.”
Taehyung stands up to lean against the countertop. “I come with a proposition, sunbae-nim. I get: a part-time job that helps pay my dorm fees. You get: my commitment & undying devotion.” He smiles primly.
Hoseok snort-laughs and claps his back. Jimin covers his face, mortified.
“How early do you think you can come in for a training shift this weekend?” Hoseok asks once his expression sobers up.
“You’ve got me anytime you want. I’ll make sure I’m all in.”
“Okay. Is 9am on Saturday good?”
Taehyung presses a hand to his heart. “Perfect.”
If possible, Hoseok’s smile brightens by several notches. “Cool.”
Jimin just watches the two banter, awed. Then an idea strikes him.
“Oh, hey, since we got you to apply thanks to your friend’s recommendation, there should be some way to express our thanks,” he points out.
“Oh.” Taehyung’s eyes flit upwards as he contemplates. “Hyung has another gig this Saturday night. How about you come watch and support his show with me?” His sparkling gaze slides to Hoseok. “You too, sunbae.”
“Saturday? We might be busy,” Jimin says. “Peak hours and all.”
“Seohyun and I will be on shift,” Kangwoo supplies, walking past with a broom. “And the other two part-timers will be around, too.”
Hoseok’s scrutinizing gaze flitters between Jimin and Taehyung for a long moment.
Jimin says nothing, but crosses his fingers behind his back.
“Ask eomma first,” says Hoseok. “But she should be chill with it… with my endorsement.” He sends Jimin a wink. “You work too hard, Jimin-ah. Go for it. I’ll see if I can make it.”
Taehyung pouts and mutters under his breath, “But my weekly horoscope said I’ll be with him too…”
Hoseok messes up Taehyung’s hair. “Let’s see how the weekend crowd pans out.”
At his affecionate gesture, Taehyung’s expression lifts. He turns to Jimin to give him a high five. “I can’t wait to introduce you to my friend. I’ve known him since we were kids in piano class.”
Jimin smiles bashfully, while at the same time unable to deny the small thrum of excitement that rolls through him. Although he’d left his hardcore partying days in Perth, the prospect of letting loose and watching something because it’s /fun/ is exciting. “Blue & Grey, huh.”
Saturday night has Jimin’s nerves frayed at the ends. He spends an hour pacing back and forth the length of his room, despairing over what to wear. It’s been way too long since he last had a night out. In fact, this is his first in Seoul.
[INFP or ENFP]
chefs mfkn smooch
it’s just chalk
see ya at 7?
There’s something about Saturday nights at the streets of Hongdae. Foodcarts abound, and fragrant steam from different foods waft into the air amidst young men and women’s laughter. If Jimin weren’t so jittery he’d be wolfing down a fish stick by now.
“This way,” says Taehyung.
He brings them to a narrow alley that leads towards an even narrower flight of stone steps descending to an underground ‘concert hall’, if one can even call it that. It’s more like a speakeasy-turned-public domain, packed with well-dressed people around Jimin and Taehyung’s age.
The stage is empty. Deafening, electronic music with loud bass pounds against the walls and reverberates around Jimin’s ears. He can smell alcohol and fruity drinks in the air.
“Can we sit a little further from the speaker?” he shouts to Taehyung over the music.
He’s not exactly fond of the lewd stares people have been sending his way as soon as he arrived.
Taehyung nods, and they meander through the crowd to grab some high stools at the back of the hall.
“This hyung of yours—is he like, around our age?” Jimin asks.
“Yeah. A student.”
That’s incredibly young. Jimin always imagined people in bands to be … professionals who have made careers out of music.
“He’s a psych major at our uni, actually,” Taehyunf adds. “Music’s like, his side hustle. He also has some solo collabs. I’m so proud of him, to be honest.”
“So what’s his name?”
Taehyung opens his mouth, but then the house lights simmer low, drawing out excited whoops and titters from the crowd. Shadowy figures move across the stage.
Jimin’s fingers drum against the tops of this knees as he cranes his neck to see what’s going on.
Out of nowhere, a glaring white spotlight illuminates a tall young man with wavy hair onstage. He smiles. “Heyo.”
High-pitched squeals soar through the air.
“That’s the lead singer, DK,” Taehyung leans & whispers to Jimin.
The spotlight widens to shine on the rest of the band.
“Hajoon on the drums, Huening Kai the lead guitarist,” Taehyung says as two more guys come into view. “Then there’s Yeonjun on the bass. And finally—“
Jimin’s eyes adjust to the guy with a pink-tipped mullet behind the keyboard, wearing a choker and a plain white shirt.
The rest of Taehyung’s words fall away, drowned out by the cheers of the small but enthusiastic crowd around them. Not that Jimin needs an introduction.
He’d know that face anywhere, regardless of hairstyle.
“Good evening,” the lead singer says into the mic. “We’re Blue&Grey.”
Jimin blinks hard, then rubs his eyes. Just in case they’re lying to him. Is that really who he thinks he is?
“MIN YOONGI!” a young man shouts.
Jimin nearly falls off his stool.
Fuck, he is.
“We’ve got a pretty short setlist for tonight’s gig, but we hope you enjoy the show.”
While the lead singer says a short spiel, Jimin’s mind races, pulse quickening to a haphazard rhythm. He swallows heavily, unable to peel his eyes off the stage.
“Our first song is a cover,” DK explains. “Here’s ‘Robbers’ by The 1975.”
Jimin remains seated perfectly still throughout the first song, barely aware if he’s still breathing. To the unsuspecting eye, he might seem enraptured by the band’s performance. But look closer and you’d notice the way he’s wringing the hem of his t-shirt in his hands.
Three thoughts hit him at the exact same time.
1) Yoongi is in Seoul.
2) Taehyung is his friend.
3) Yoongi looks perfectly content… without Jimin in his life.
Then again, what was Jimin expecting?
He doesn’t know if he should be happy the guy’s alive, or mad he’s living well.
Something about the shock of seeing his old childhood penpal’s face again after so long dredges up years’ worth of resentment tamped down deep inside Jimin.
It’s not fair that Yoongi gets to ghost and reject him, and then move on so easily. So much for friends. For ‘someday’.
In the end, nobody really keeps their word. Not Jimin’s family, nor the first person he’d ever truly felt an emotional attachment to.
“You okay?” Taehyung nudges him. “You’re frowning.”
Jimin huffs. “I’m fine.”
He keeps his jaw clenched so tight his head starts pounding.
He barely pays attention to the rest of Blue & Grey’s lackluster performance. Objectively speaking, they’re not half bad. But to Jimin they all reek.
When the set ends, he hops down from his stool, but Taehyung seems to have different plans. He grabs Jimin by the elbow.
“C’mon, I know the way to backstage.” Taehyung grins at him. “We got VIP tickets, remember?”
Jimin’s throat constricts. He might puke.
No. No, this is the worst possible scenario that could happen tonight.
Of all people, why did Min Yoongi have to be here? He can’t face him.
He tries to wrench his elbow away, but Taehyung chalks up his reluctance to nerves, and slings an arm around Jimin’s shoulder to steer him harder.
“You’ll be fine, they’re all super chill normal guys like us, I promise!”
/Oh, wouldn’t I know/, Jimin thinks bitterly. He sighs.
Since the concert venue isn’t an official one, the ‘backstage’ area is little more than a makeshift lounge, cordoned off with a curtain for privacy. Taehyung sweeps aside the fabric.
“Hyung! Good job tonight!”
And there he is, in the flesh. Black hair, pink tips. Ripped jeans.
Jimin’s childhood penpal for half his life is here, and he looks as delicate and artfully crafted as ever.
If only he wasn’t such a dick.
Yoongi turns around. “Oh, Taehyung—“
He stops when his eyes fall on Jimin.
The lounge falls deathly silent.
“Why are you here?”
Bumpy ride ahead! But aren’t those the most fun stories?
Important A/N: if you’d like to help me save up for my summer exchange in Korea … my parents have decided not to financially support me, so I’m writing to survive atp ;; thank you~
Another illustration set for @adubu ☁︎'s heartbreakingly beautiful #YoonMin AU called Dear My Friend.
If you have not read it yet, you should.
For those who read the story so far, the details on these will make sense. I teared up multiple times while I was making this.
Jimin should have known better than to believe he’d left all his terrible luck back in Australia.
Because of all places, of all people… he just has to cross paths with Yoongi again, just when he was starting to settle into his new life here in Seoul. Jimin’s stomach curdles.
Yoongi, who at one point had been somewhat of a saving grace to him, a steady pillar in a crumbling home. Yoongi, who had given him hope and told him to take his time.
Yoongi, who shut him down as soon as Jimin confessed his feelings.
Maybe some hurts never do heal.
Jimin jerks his chin up and meets Yoongi’s icy look with a glare of his own. “I’m—“
“Duh, isn’t it obvious?” Taehyung gushes, jogging over to throw an arm around Yoongi’s shoulders. “We came here to congratulate your successful show! DK hyung, your voice—fantastic as usual.”
A sigh swooshes out of Jimin’s mouth. Thank heavens for Taehyung. He crosses his arms and lingers behind while his friend dishes out a round of compliments.
“Hyung, don’t leave your friend behind, introduce us to him!” one of the guitarists—Huening Kai—chimes, smiling at Jimin.
“Yeah, who is he? I haven’t seen you bring him to our gigs before,” says Hajoon, twirling his drumsticks between his fingers. “Let me guess—you two are…?”
Jimin forgets his resentment momentarily, and shakes his head. “No, we’re friends. I’m just—“
“Nobody,” mutters Yoongi.
Jimin pauses, narrowing his eyes at the keyboardist. He’d been hoping to get through this highly awkward encounter without having to interact with Yoongi, but now that he started… “Excuse me?”
“Nobody,” Yoongi repeats, then glances at his band, “…else is coming to greet us?”
A quiet scoff escapes Jimin. While the rest of the band speculate over people involved in their small meet-and-greet, he wonders how Yoongi can act so nonchalant and unaffected, while Jimin is close to a meltdown.
And is it possible for someone’s personality to regress so much?
“Anyway, yeah,” Taehyung says, tugging Jimin closer by the elbows. Jimin fights back a grimace and forces a cordial smile, if only for his new friend. “This is Park Jimin, my uni bestie in KU. He’s from Australia. We’re in the same major.”
Huening Kai says in English, “Heyyy.”
It takes Jimin by surprise, but he settles into the language easily. “Hi. You guys did great out there. Good stuff.”
“Will you be back to listen again?” Huening Kai grins and bounces giddily, eyes bunching up adorably.
“Uh.” Jimin pointedly avoids eye contact with one. “Maybe?”
“Sweet. We hope to see you again in out next show,” DK says.
Yoongi coughs loudly. “Wouldn’t bank on it.” He turns to his keyboard bag to begin packing.
Jimin feels his face slacken, temper igniting.
“Huh? Why?” Huening Kai asks, pouting.
“Just ‘cause. Don’t trust ‘maybes’.”
As eldest, Jimin prides himself on having the patience of a saint, except for passive aggression. The fact that Yoongi is being so spiteful /unprovoked/, however…
“Hyung. Let’s be nice to our fans,” says DK.
Jimin clenches his fists. “It’s alright. I’m no fan. Just nobody.”
At his words, Yoongi’s hands pause over his keyboard’s cables. He stands slowly, scoffing under his breath as though Jimin had just made a corny joke. He levels an unreadable look his way. “That’s right. And you’ve got no business being here.”
“Uh,” Taehyung scratches his head.
Just /where/ is all the hostility even coming from? It’s not fair. Sure, Jimin had taken his time figuring himself out, but he had reached out in the end! Yoongi has nothing to be salty about—if anything, it should be Jimin who should be angry.
He blinks back tears.
No. He won’t cry. He’s done enough of it in the last few years.
“Do you guys know each other?” Taehyung points between them. “Because—“
“FYI, I have a ticket.” Jimin brandishes his pass. “So, tell me again. I /love/ to see you deluded into thinking you’re putting me in place.”
Glaring back at Yoongi—this new concoction of a young man Jimin barely recognizes—it all becomes so painfully clear: this is not his Yoongi. Jimin doesn’t know him, and the sweet, reliable hyung he used to write to is now no more than a fond memory.
This Yoongi is a stranger.
The lounge goes frigidly silent, then, with the rest of the band sending each other alarmed looks while Jimin keeps his fury traine solely on Yoongi. He had expected tears on the way here.
He hadn’t expected to be smited. Out of habit, he reaches for the chain around his neck.
It’s a self-soothing mannerism for Jimin, at this point. Whenever he faces something even mildly uncomfortable or distressful, his fingers always find their way to the pendant hanging from his neck. Over the years, he had detached its symbolic value from its original owner.
Following his hand’s pathway, Yoongi’s gaze fixates on the guitar pick pendant hanging just slightly above the brand logo of Jimin’s shirt. Yoongi’s eyebrows smoothen for a nanosecond before he frowns.
“Blue&Grey!” a floor manager shouts. “Pack it up!”
Jimin gnaws on his lower lip and races through the curtain parting, fingers tightening over the pendant. He dashes in the direction of the bathroom.
“Chim!” Taehyung’s voice rings out from behind, still at the lounge. “Wait!”
“Bathroom!” Jimin replies hastily. “It’s urgent.”
He locks himself in the nearest available cubicle and leans against the door, panting. He can feel heartbeat kicking up an unruly tempo underneath his hand.
Slowly, his grip around his pendant loosens. His lucky charm.
Jimin closes his eyes. “Shit.”
Yoongi saw him wearing it.
[stopping here for tonight because of my awful sore throat and sleepiness]
see you next update
He’s wearing the necklace.
It makes no sense. Then again, nothing about this night does. Everything about Park Jimin has changed—appearance, personality, even his aura—and yet the one thing that remains is Yoongi’s grandfather’s pendant hanging around his neck.
Yoongi considers two modes of action: ask for it back, or ask why.
Why would Jimin deliberately erase Yoongi from his life, and yet still choose to carry an ornament that’s obviously from him?
But because Yoongi is convinced all his affection is gone, he settles for the former.
“Seriously, what’s going on?” Taehyung says, face a mask of bewilderment as he looks the direction Jimin ran to.
Inhaling deeply and curling his fists to quell the sharp anger rising in him, Yoongi turns to Taehyung. “/That’s/ the Jimin you’ve befriended in uni? Of all people?”
“I told you, hyung, I met someone called Jimin and I was gonna bring him!”
Yoongi grunts. Undeniably, that’s his oversight—he’d pushed all thoughts of his old friend so far back in his mind that he failed to consider the guy would be /his/ Jimin. He owed it to a coincidence.
“Hyung, weren’t you a bit too harsh on him?” Huening Kai pointe out with a pout. “He looked really shooketh.”
/Well, I’m more shaken./ Yoongi turns back to his keyboard. “Sorry for ruining the vibe.”
“You’re not gonna tell us why you dropped honorifics with him?” asks Hajoon.
“Yeah, what was that all about?” Taehyung says, eyes squinted at him. “You’re usually so laid-back, I’ve never seen you this worked up over a supposed stranger. Unless he’s not.”
“He’s right. You lost your cool back there, dude,” DK observes.
Yoongi’s nostrils flare. “He’s…”
How does he even begin to describe who Park Jimin is to him? The boy who made life seem so bright for years when Yoongi was in a dark tunnel? The first person Yoongi had loved, and broken his heart? “He’s just some brat I fell out with years ago. Anyway, I don’t like his vibe.”
Taehyung turns up his nose and makes a haughty, miffed noise. “Well, he’s my friend now, so don’t be mean to him.”
Yoongi scoffs at him. “Yah, I’m your friend, too.”
“Yes, so I’m going to request the same of Jimin. If you can’t be cordial, at least be diplomatically tolerant.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “Do what you want. Just…” he sighs, “don’t make me deal with him any more than I have to. Don’t make us hang out. Whatever. I don’t care.” So what if Park Jimin is back, confirming Yoongi’s suspicion that he’d left the country after all? The past is past.
Yoongi can be diplomatically tolerant. In fact, that’s like, his forte. He’s a psychology major and a music composer, for fuck’s sake. The years have molded him into someone new. In fact, Jimin’s leaving made him stronger.
And now that he’s back?
Yoongi can’t be bothered.
“Anyway, do you wanna hitch a ride with us?” Yoongi offers sullenly, side-eyeing Taehyung.
“You drove here?”
“Yeah. All that equipment’s gotta be carried somehow.”
Taehyung wrinkles his nose. “I’m good. Gonna check on Jimin.”
Huening Kai raises his arm. “Send me home, hyung!”
Yoongi coughs under his breath and bites on his lower lip. “OK. But Taehyung-ah.”
“Are you sure you guys can find your way back home?” Yoongi glances at his watch. “It’s uh… getting late, isn’t it?”
Taehyung waves a hand. “We’ll be fine, hyung. Thanks for the offer.”
“Okay.” Yoongi ducks his hand, keeping his hands busy with the cables. “Taehyung ah.”
Taehyung sighs, halfway out the door, and turns back to Yoongi again. “What.”
“Don’t ever bring up Park Jimin to me.”
“I’m not the one mentioning him right now, though.”
“I’m just saying.”
Once Taehyung exits the backstage lounge, Yoongi lets out a long breath he didn’t realize he’s been holding. He shakes his head, appalled by his awful luck, and turns back to his band.
The rest of Blue&Grey stare at him, bemused.
Yoongi frowns. “What?”
(brb, just got home! things get fun soon. what do you think of Yoongi’s POV? ㅋㅋㅋ)
“What do you mean he’s back in your life?” Jungkook scoffs over the video call. He’s currently using a filter that gives him grey bunny whiskers & ears, making him look soft, but the frown of confusion he wears is genuine. “I thought you said your penpal era was just a phase.”
Jimin sighs and leans back against his desktop armchair, staring at the ceiling. “It was.”
“So why do you look so affected?” asks Jungkook.
“He…” Jimin purses his lips, brows furrowing. “He called me a nobody.”
“Technically, maybe that’s true, you know.”
Jungkook giggles, head bobbing forward and making the bunny ears flicker out momentarily. Jimin probably shouldn’t keep letting the brat get under his skin, but it’s tough to do when it comes to a certain guy whose name starts with Y and ends with an I.
“If you look at it this sense: you haven’t really been anybody to each other for years, right?” Jungkook explains. “In a way, you’re both nobody to each other.”
“That’s the thing.” How did Jimin go from a close friend to a ‘nobody’ to Yoongi in just 3 years? “It sucked to hear.”
“But why? Friends lose touch all the time,” Jungkook muses with a shrug. “I haven’t spoken to my friends in elementary school in forever and it doesn’t sting. In fact, I’d be happy if I saw them again! Aren’t you?”
Jimin hesitates. He walks to his bed and flops face-forward.
/Because I bared my heart out to him and faced rejection./
He reminds himself that Jungkook has no clue about the last letter Jimin sent, or that he’d harbored anything romantic for his penpal. Rather than answer, Jimin asks, “Well, why didn’t he look happy to see me again too?”
“Dunno. Ask, maybe?”
Jimin tugs at his hair and emits a pitchy scream that gets muffled into his soft, thick duvet. He hates this. Hates knowing that he still feels resentful, after all, meaning he can’t feign indifference.
Hates that deep down, he’s glad Yoongi is in Seoul.
“There, there. Eat some bunggeo-ppang!” Jungkook says with lighthearted cheer. Jimin wonders if, at one point in life, he’d looked at the world the same way Jungkook was. If so, he really misses that Park Jimin. “Hyung, I think you should ask yourself first why you’re so upset.”
Jimin sighs and rolls to his back, staring up at the ceiling. “It’s… it’s complicated.”
“So talk to someone. Or write it down? Or rant. There’s a forum on Naver exactly for people like you. Maybe it’ll help!” Jungkook says. “Oh, I gotta go. Text me!”
“You never reply!”
The video call disconnects, and Jimin’s phone screen returns to his open chat with Jungkook. He lays his phone screen-down over the duvet and covers his eyes with one forearm, thoughts racing.
Maybe Jungkook has a point. Jimin has to sort his feelings out somehow.
He sits up.
What /is/ the source of all this bitterness inside of him? Apart from the rejection from years ago, Jimin racks his brain for an answer and only comes up with one: Yoongi had moved on.
Judging from last night, he’s doing music in his own way, pursuing a field he really wanted.
Meanwhile in the time they’d been apart, what did Jimin do?
Partying around, having on-again, off-again flings, learned to lie to his family about his whereabouts—all in an attempt to shun the shitty parts of his domestic life.
Yoongi is striving hard, and Jimin is… just him.
Jimin shakes his head, face burning with an indescribable mix of shame & regret. Shame that he hadn’t been able to show his best self during a pivotal night when Yoongi was bringing his A game on, and regret that Jimin’s teen years felt wasted.
So he replies to Chrysanthemum:
He hesitates sending the letter on Monday afternoon, because holy shit does he sound so whiny & weepy! But acknowledging his emotions rather than bottling them up—that should help him get over himself quicker, right? Self-awareness and all that.
Breath held, he posts the letter.
Vaguely, he entertains himself with a deluded musing that if Yoongi were to read his letters now, he’d probably be dismayed at how differently Park Jimin had turned out to be in just a span of three years.
During class, Taehyung doesn’t mention their weekend night out.
Which is probably for the best, thinks Jimin, since he doesn’t really feel like explaining himself to a new friend.
Taehyung does, however, poke and prod over—
“How’d you and Yoongi-hyung know each other?” Taehyung leans over to whisper and write notes to Jimin. “Hmm? Hmmm?”
At the front of the lecture hall, the professor is giving a summarized brief over the main assignments for the semester.
“The prof is going to send us out if you keep doing this,” Jimin hisses under his breath.
Taehyung scoots closer, to the edge of his seat. “Are you exes?”
“What? /No/,” Jimin huffs adamantly, brows darting together.
So Yoongi hasn’t told Taehyung anything about him, either. This only further solidifies Jungkook’s “you’re nothing to each other” theory.
“We’re just…we used to be friends. But we drifted apart.”
“He said the same.”
“Yeah, yeah. Does that answer your question?“
Taehyung twirls his pen between his fingers, lips curled into a pout. “But why’d you drift apart?”
“I moved to Australia.”
“Y’all didn’t have social media to keep in touch?”
Jimin pauses. “Well, he doesn’t have social media.”
“Does too!” Taehyung says in a louder volume, which catches the professor’s sharp, vigilant eye. He flashes a wide, boxy-smile and a peace sign, making the entire lecture hall giggle.
“As I was saying,” the professor clears his throat, “feature writing involves good research…”
Jimin’s attention is fully on Taehyung’s words now, though.
Social media. It’s not like he never considered that. But no matter how hard he searched for any “min” or “yoongi” online, he never pulled up any public profiles.
“Hyung’s on Insta,” Taehyung says. “Check it out.”
Jimin turns his attention back to the front of the lecture hall. “Maybe later.”
Maybe never. He has no business being nosy. And anyway, why should he fall prey to curiosity about someone else’s life? He’s nothing to Yoongi, after all. So Yoongi should be nothing to him, too.
“I don’t really feel like seeing his face,” Jimin says in his most cordially apologetic tone, shrugging. “Please don’t try to make us make up. It won’t work.” There’s just too much bad blood, at this point in time.
“Eh, he said the same, too. It’s giving idiocy,” Taehyung says.
“It’s giving ‘maturity’,” Jimin corrects. “Sometimes the world will be a better place if two people just stay apart.”
“Sometimes the world doesn’t want two people to stay apart,” Taehyung says candidly, but with playful grin.
Jimin snorts. “I just hope I don’t see him often.”
(tbc after my project meeting tonight!)
On Tuesday afternoon, Jimin is surprised to be notified about a reply already waiting for him at the Garden Post mailbox. As soon as his last lecture of the day ends, he bolts from his seat and rushes to the Student Services Office. He skids to a halt a good distance away.
Because Yoongi is there, standing just outside the office entrance with a plain black messenger crossbody bag slung over his shoulders. He’s rummaging into his bag, preoccupied, and Jimin takes the chance to backtrack and hide behind a thick pillar like a prey being hunted.
“Speak of the devil,” Jimin mutters, trying to catch his breath. It’s okay, he assures himself. With him out of sight, Yoongi won’t notice him, which minimizes all possible chances of interaction—
“Chim!” Taehyung’s voice comes bounding up from a nearby staircase. “Park Jimin!”
“Shh!” Jimin lifts a finger to his lips, giving Taehyung his best withering glare.
“Why, why, what’s wrong?” Taehyung sidles up to him, all smiles. He tugs Jimin by the elbow. “Aren’t you going into the office? Let’s go together! I have some documents to collect— oh… ohhh.”
Taehyung’s grip on Jimin’s elbow falters just as Jimin spots a shadow against the wall approaching where they’re standing. A moment later Yoongi appears beside to Taehyung, his face peerless and stoic.
“Hi, hyung.” Taehyung offers a feigned jovial laugh, which comes out hoarse.
Yoongi nods at Taehyung, his gaze sliding over to Jimin.
He blinks owlishly. The next second, his eyes grow even colder.
Jimin shrugs and stares back defiantly. Not a single word uttered, but not a single word needed for him to sense the uptick in Yoongi’s agitation.
And since he’s a man who knows how to use his words, unlike some, Jimin breaks the awkward silence first. “We were just going about our own way.” He links arms with Taehyung. “Let’s go, Tete.”
“Right,” Taehyung smacks his lips together nervously. “Me and my Unnamed Friend!”
“Unnamed Friend?” repeats Jimin, frowning.
“Yeah! He-Who-Remains-Unknown, Aussiehopper, Brotha-From-Anotha-Motha.”
“You’re such an oddball.”
“I live for mystery and surprise.”
Jimin hurries into the office without sparing another glance behind him, Taehyung in tow.
“Oh,” Taehyung says while they wait at the counter. “You’re not wearing your necklace today.”
Jimin glances down. “Hahah. Hah. Yeah. Didn’t um, feel like it.”
He steers the topic away just so he doesn’t have to explain not wanting to get caught wearing something of Yoongi’s.
He retrieves the letter, but with Taehyung around decides against reading it on the spot. Maybe when he has alone time.
Unfortunately, alone time is particularly tough to find when you’re rushing from uni to a part-time job that entails constantly serving the public.
It’s a non-issue, though. Today is one of those rare business days where it seems like everybody and their grandmothers living in the neighborhood simultaneously decided to go for coffee at The Cacao Crushers. It gets so busy even Aunt Miseon steps in to help with order-taking.
Time flies for the most part of the afternoon. Despite the toll it takes on his body, Jimin finds the physical hustle a brief and welcome respite from his constantly churning mind. Work is work, nothing personal. Here, he doesn’t need to be reminded of—
The entrance bell chimes.
Without even looking, Jimin is already plastering a customary smile on his face whilst clearing used glasses a table. “Hello, welcome to The Cacao—“
He looks up.
And nearly drops his tray.
Luckily he manages to lay it on the counter for dirty silverware before he buckles.
Jimin leans against the counter for support, then gathers his wits enough to scurry behind the bar countertop before the newly arrived customer with a black messenger bag can spot him.
Jimin cringes, wishing to evaporate. It’s getting ridiculous at this point.
“Jiminie? Why are you heaving like that, are you okay?” Hoseok asks as he squeezes past where Jimin is cowering behind the coffee machine. “Do you feel nauseous?”
“Ah,” Jimin fakes a grin and makes two thumbs up, “I’m good! Just, just stretching my lower back. Aaaah~”
“If you need a break, don’t hesitate to step out the back room, okay?” Hoseok claps Jimin in the shoulder, then carries on with his own tasks.
Jimin would he inclined to do so, but just then, a new wave of chatty teenagers waltz into the café.
/A guy can’t catch a break./
If he left the floor now just when customers are slamming in, he’d feel awful. He doesn’t have the guts to do that, especially not with Aunt Miseon here working herself to the bone, too.
And so, in the midst of the café, Jimin shuts his eyes and tries to manifest inner peace.
Behind his closed eyelids, though, only Yoongi’s glare flashes like an annoying billboard LED screen, occupying every inch of Jimin’s mind’s eye. His eyes jerk wide open with a startle, the hairs at the back of his neck rising.
Inner peace, his foot.
“Jimin-ah,” Aunt Miseon’s voice breaks him out of his spiraling funk. Jimin looks up, alert once more.
“Help me take some orders, won’t you? A few customers have just arrived.” Aunt Miseon all but dashes past him. “I need to grab more ingredients from the freezer.”
“O…kay,” Jimin answers, voice growing faint. He looks around the sitting area and pauses when he finally spots Yoongi’s pink-tipped mullet bobbing among the sea of customers, making a beeline for… Table 7.
/No./ That table is reserved for their regular customer!
Who does Min Yoongi think he is to be able to override and ignore the ‘RESERVED’ sign in capital letters on the table? Jimin needs to save that seat, otherwise their Decaf Guy would be so disappointed when he comes in later.
Nerves forgotten, Jimin straightens up and marches.
He tries to ignore the studs piercing Yoongi’s earbes; a stark contrast between his fair, innocent-looking face.
“Hi,” Jimin says, assuming his best customer service voice.
Yoongi looks up, eyes widening when he finds Jimin standing before him. “Heol. Are you… stalking me?”
The brazen accusation catches Jimin off-guard. “I—what? Excuse me?”
Yoongi crosses his arms and shoots him a half-baffled, narrow-eyed look. “Well, where should I start?” He holds up 3
fingers. “You watch my shows, you linger around me on campus, and now you’re—“
“I woke here.”
[a/n: typo error, it should be work*]
Jimin is trying to keep a pleasant face, but the sheer audacity of the guy before him makes it so hard to keep a cool temper. He points at his apron. “See? Legal employee.”
Yoongi pauses, eyeing him up and down. “I just find it so hard to chalk everything up to coincidence.”
“And I’ll give you cookie points for being so confidently wrong,” says Jimin. “Anyway, you can’t sit there!”
Yoongi narrows his eyes at him. Instead of replying to Jimin, he makes a big show of standing and then sitting down with a big flourish of his limbs. “Uh oh. Occupied.”
“I mean it,” Jimin pouts, two seconds away trom stomping his feet like a kid with a tantrum. He crosses his arms. “Please move to another seat, this is reserved for our regular guest.” He gestures to the ‘RESERVED’ sign.
Something in Yoongi’s gaze then shifts to amusement. “Oh?”
Jimin nods, his clouded temper clearing ever so slightly. Finally, Yoongi seems to be letting up a little. “Yes.”
“And have you met this regular guest?”
“Yes,” Jimin lies. Anything to oust Min Yoongi. “We’re… friends, actually.”
“Ohhh.” Yoongi leans forward. “Tell me more.”
Jimin makes a face. “I don’t find it necessary to tell you about my relationships with other people. Anyway, don’t change the topic!”
If only there was a way to wipe off that growing smirk on Yoongi’s face. “Easy, now, why’d you drop honorifics on me? I was just being curious.”
He points at the sign on the wall next to the bar countertop. “Isn’t everyone a valued guest here?”
Jimin blinks. “Well, yeah—“
“So, going by that logic, I’m a valued guest, too.“
“Yes, /dear valued guest/, please try to understand—“
“Anway I’ll get a decaf. Iced, please.”
Jimin paused and uncrosses his arms until they end up dangling limp by his sides.
“What?” Yoongi says. “Hurry, before your valued regular customer arrives to take this table. i won’t take long, I promise.” He shoots Jimin a polite, bracket-shaped smile.
He is insufferable.
Jimin’s thoughts get interrupted when, the next moment, Aunt Miseon walks by behind Jimin, carrying a tray of dirty cups, and says, “Dear, Table 1 is waiting. Could you help me serve their food after you take this order?”
“Uh. Sure.” He throws Yoongi a scowl. “Fine. One decaf.”
He stalks back to the counter to key in the order. Then Hoseok comes barreling in to stand next to him, waiting for his turn. Jimin takes the chance to lean in and whisper to his cousin, “Hyung, there’s a stranger at Table 7. But isn’t it reserved?”
Hoseok follows his gaze.
Then his face breaks out into a smile. Pointing at the order screen, Hoseok says, “Decaf.” Then he nods to Yoongi, sitting next to the window like a cat soaking up the sun. “Table 7.” Then he points out the date on the calendar. “Tuesday!”
Only then do all the pieces click.
Jimin face falls with the ferocity of his realization. He turns to gawk at Yoongi, who meets his eye and offers a casual wave that Jimin snarls at, then looks at Hoseok again. “Wait… so that guy, he’s…”
“Tuesday Decaf Dude, yeah.”
The one who couldn’t come… because of a gig.
Jimin smacks a hand to his mouth. His lips go dry. He can feel the earth beneath his feet begin to quake. His muscles clam up. The clouds in the great heavens above grow stormy as a sea. From the next town over, a dog barks. And then even farther, miles away, a volcano erupts.
“Oh,” Jimin says weakly, face flushing with the slow but torturous creeping sensation of mortification. He wonders if it’s too late to book a flight back to Perth and pre-schedule his own funeral.
Hoseok pats his shoulder. “Yeah, you finally met him! Look. His decaf’s ready.”
At that moment, the song playing over the café’s speakers ends, then switches to a new one.
“/Just gonna stand there and watch me buuuurn…/“
Out of instinct, Jimin casts Table 7 a panicked glance, only to realize that Yoongi’s already looking at him, one eyebrow arched.
“Help me serve his drink, ‘kay?” Hoseok says. “I got a few orders to key in. Go, go.”
Jimin’s survival instincts kick in. At this point in time it’s too late to take back what he said. He might as well suck it up and put on a cool, professional demeanor with no room for shame.
So with his head held high, he collects the tray of iced decaf and takes long, graceful strides towards Table 7.
Swan, Jimin is a swan right now, sitting in a still lake. Not a single ripple of water in sight, feathers unruffled. He is so zen he might make Buddha cry with pride.
As he approaches, he notes how Yoongi has started bobbing his head to the song filtering through the café. “Here.” Jimin lays down the tray and serves the glass of decaf—
“….’that’s all right because I love the way you lie, I love the way you lie,” Yoongi lipsyncs passionately.
Jimin only barely manages to hold back an eyeroll. In his head, he’s stitching up a Yoongi-sized voodoo doll.
“Such a good song, isn’t it?” Yoongi says, reaching for a straw. He swirls it in his drink and takes a sip. With a sharp hiss, his face twists. “Ugh, it’s bland today.”
Jimin nods. “Noted, thank you for your feedback.”
“It’s weird. I often come here ‘cause the decaf is bomb, but today it’s just…” Yoongi waggles a finger in the air as though trying to find the right word, “…off.”
“Maybe I spat in it,” Jimin says plaintively.
Jimin bursts out into staccato chuckles that convey no humor and holds up a prace sign. “I’m kidding.”
Yoongi’s face relaxes.
“…or am I?” Jimin adds. He grins for real when Yoongi frowns and starts eyeing the drink like a detective. Jimin takes it as his cue to leave. “Enjoy!”
pausing here for now cos PTD!!!!
If you’re familiar w/ my work, you’d know how dear the enemies to lovers trope is to me. This is what makes I meant by “fun” ^^ also, please consider supporting me on Ko-Fi while I save up for exchange
ㅋㅋㅋ yea that was embarrassing
i can’t believe the coincidence tho
it’s like fate
no it’s bad luck
i made a fool of myself
to be fair you kinda assumed he wasn’t the regular customer
thank u for the assurance
maybe it’s a sign
to make up & be friends
start writing letters again
i would rather dive in a pond of dead fish
he’s not the same
bet it’s a demonic possession
also u didn’t REALLY spit into his drink right
Jimin scoffs at Jungkook’s last message. Of course he didn’t—he’s not that nasty, and he doesn’t want his aunt’s café to be afffected by his own personal grudges.
Jungkook is being too idealistic, he thinks. Then again, he’s always been more of a hopeless romantic than Jimin.
Write letters again? Please. Who in this day and age still writes letters to people they can text or call instead?
The last person Jimin ever wants to jot down anything for is Min Yoongi.
He takes reprieve in the fact that if anyone is worth a letter, it’s Chrysanthemum.
Speaking of which, there’s still that unopened reply from this afternoon, sitting inside Jimin’s bag. He walks over to his desk to retrieve it, then sits on his chair to open the envelope.
These days, he’s primed himself into opening every letter like a secret gift.
Jimin’s heart swells as he clutches the letter to his chest, a stone’s throw away from swooning. Not that there’s anything romantic about Chrysanthemum’s reply, but damn—she’s got such a way with words, Jimin feels compelled to believe everything. How can someone be so intuitive?
How can a single, typed-up sheet of paper bleed with this much sincerity? Something about Chrysanthemum exudes warm comfort. It’s the kind of support Jimin wonders he might have received if he and Yoongi hadn’t drifted apart.
But the past is past.
Giddily, Jimin answers:
He posts the letter early the next morning, heads to the campus library to catch up on his readings, and makes his way to his only class of the day a few minutes before noon.
“I will assign you your first task of the semester today,” announces their professor. “A book report.”
Jimin notes it down on his notepad.
“It will be due two weeks from now,” continues the professor.
A nervous buzz sweeps through the class.
“Now, as I am aware of the short deadline, I’ve decided to make this a random paired assignment. No worries, you won’t be alone.”
Jimin sighs in relief. From his periphery, he notices Taehyung doing the same. Hopefully they might get paired together. There’s a 1 out of 32 chance, at least.
No such luck. When Jimin’s name is called out, the partner assigned to do the assignment with him is Jeon Somi.
It’s one of the girls from Jimin’s freshman orientation camp. They’d competed on the same team and even went out for drinks later. Not too bad then.
After they’re dismissed, Jimin makes his way to where Somi is sitting. “Hi.”
Somi looks up and beams at him. “I’m glad it’s you!”
“Do you want to set a date and time to discuss?” Jimin asks, adjusting the strap of his bag over his shoulder. “Might be a good idea to make some headway before other assessments pile up.”
“Sure.” Somi nods. “Actually I’m free later!”
“Later?” Jimin hums. “I’m working, though.”
Somi tilts her head, then shrugs. “It’s fine. Another day then.“
“Actually,” Jimin runs his week’s schedule over at a glance. Since his afternoons are devoted to the Cacao Crushers, it’s not like there’ll be any other free day for him. “You wanna come where I work? It’s a café.”
“Oooh, I love cafés,” gushes Somi, her eyes growing rounder. “Is it nearby? What’s a good time to come?”
“Maybe early evening? I’ll be doing closing. Anyway, our house is nearby so Plan B is to move there if it’s too noisy,” says Jimin. “How’s that?”
“OK. Text me the location!”
After leaving the lecture hall, Jimin hightails it to the office just to check if he’s received any reply from his new friend-slash-advisor. He hasn’t received any notice, but just in case.
He reaches the glass entrance just as the door swings forward to reveal Yoongi exiting.
Jimin stops in his tracks as soon as their eyes meet. Yoongi pauses too, one hand still on the glass door’s handle.
They exchange dagger eyes, Jimin’s narrowed while Yoongi’s filled with unadulterated exasperation.
Jimin’s nostrils flare. Then, he pokes his tongue out at Yoongi.
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “Maybe there IS a grain of truth in my stalking allegations. Maybe we should set a one-foot apart rule…”
“Oh, get over yourself.” Jimin rests on hand on his hip, tipping his head back to look Yoongi down. “I’m here on official business.”
“So am I.”
“So, mind your own business.”
Jimin hates the fact that he can’t look away from the way Yoongi’s pink mullet curls up subtly around the nape of his neck. In another world, he might have complimented the hairdo.
Not in this world.
“I’d say the same for you. You need it more.”
Jimin’s lip curls up in distate. “Whatever helps you sleep better at night.”
Yoongi shakes his head and trudges on—
“Ohhh, woop woop, hold on a sec,” Jimin says, drawing an invisible line between them. “I thought you wanted to stay one foot away. You’re too close right now.”
Yoongi sighs and stares him down as he steps out of the office. “There’s one door. Ever heard the concept of space constraint? What d’you expect?”
Jimin shrugs and whistles. “I guess it was too much of me to expect you to adhere to your own terms and rules, huh?”
“I can’t believe I…”
Jimin jerks his chin defensively and crosses his arms. “What? Huh, say it.”
/Say what you mean. Tell me if there’s anything you’d still want me to know/, he thinks.
Yoongi rubs the beck of his neck and shakes his head. “Fine. One foot away, got it.”
Jimin swallows and looks down, resenting the way he’d let himself hope that he might still find a sliver of the Yoongi-hyung he used to admire and adore in the body of this stranger who now stands before him. Yoongi is looking at Jimin like he can’t stand the sight of him.
He can’t let his disappointment show, though, so Jimin masks it all with a smirk. He flicks his wrist outward in a repetitive motion. “Shoo, shoo. Don’t even think about breathing within my vicinity.”
“I’ll try not to be an eyesore, your grace.” Yoongi fakes a bow and walks off.
Jimin watches his retreating back, noting the slight amble in Yoongi’s stride, the way he walks like he’s got all the seconds and minutes stored in his pocket so there’s no need to adjust his pace for anyone.
He scoffs and turns.
With that hair, Yoongi could never be an eyesore.
After he retrieves Chrysanthemum’s letter, Jimin stashes it into his backpack and hurries down to the Cacao Crushers for his afternoon shift. Since it’s a Wednesday, Taehyung is on shift, too. Jimin arrives to find him already toddling after Hoseok like a puppy.
“I just think, you know, that if /you’re/ a fan of Lady Gaga, and /I’m/ a fan of Lady Gaga, who’s coming to Seoul for her world tour, mind you,” Taehyung is saying while tying an apron around his waist, “then should we accompany each other to catch her show? As bros!”
Hoseok hums out loud, busy with sorting coffee beans. “When is it, again?”
“Ah. I’ll be busy with midterms, though. Those essays don’t write themselves— oh, hey Jimin.” Hoseok grins at Jimin and waves him in. “Hey, I know! Why not go with Jimin, Taehyung-ah?”
Taehyung’s head swivels to Jimin’s direction. “We— we can bring Jimin, too! Of course!” He clasps his hands together and leans into Hoseok’s face. “But I want to experience her show with a REAL fan like you, hyung!” His lower lip juts outward and he starts bouncing on his feet.
“Haha, we’ll see.”
Jimin smiles to himself as he dumps his bag into an empty staff locker and ties his own apron around himself. He mentally bids Taehyung good luck in asking Hoseok out. It’s one popular kid wooing another popular kid, after all.
The first shift hour zooms by.
Now that Jimin has gotten the hang of table service, he’s slowly being taught the basics of coffee-making. The resident full-time barista, Seohyun, walks him through the ingredient measurements and the types of coffee beans used to make each drink on the menu.
Time flies by so fast that Jimin doesn’t even notice his classmate walk in until Somi is literally standing in front of the coffee machine.
“Jimin-ah!” she says, cupping her mouth.
“Oh.” Jimin startles out of concentration and tips the cup he’s holding, sloshing some coffee.
“Hi.” He smiles at Somi. “You came!”
“Of course, I said I would.” Somi looks around, adjusting the strap of her tote bag on her shoulder. “Can I just pick any seat?”
“Yeah, sure.” Jimin scans the crowd. Table 7 is available. But it’s Wednesday, so... “There. Beside the window.”
Somi follows his gaze and shoots him a thumbs up. “Thanks! I’ll get started and you can join me whenever.”
Jimin nods, then returns to his work. A few moments later, Taehyung sashays past behind him and bumps hips with him.
“Oooh, is that a new special someone?”
Jimin makes a face and elbows him. “She’s literally my book report partner, man. Nothing so special about that.”
“I see~” Taehyung floats away, whistling to himself, leaving Jimin to return to his barista practice.
Every now and then when the crowd gets busy, he serves tables.
At some point, whil stacking dirty cups together, Jimin hears the entrance bells chime as a new customer steps in.
“Welcome to the—“ Jimin looks up and halts, brain taking a few seconds to load and clock the presence of the person before him, then scowls. “Why are YOU here?”
Yoongi stands by the door, wearing a bottlecap-blue beanie and a red flannel shirt over dark ripped jeans. He levels a flat look at Jimin and shrugs as he walks past him. “Am I not allowed?”
“I mean, no, but—“ Jimin blinks, taken aback, “it’s /Wednesday./“
“You’re just the Tuesday Decaf Dude.”
Yoongi turns to him, head tipping sideways as his mouth quirks slightly as though he’s repressing a curious smile. “Is that what you guys call me around here?”
Jimin sighs, wondering why Yoongi can’t just shut up & find a corner somewhere.
“The local library was full today, so,” Yoongi shares as though to craft an excuse. His eyes fall to his usual spot, and he stiffens. “Oh.”
Jimin shrugs, trying to push back the weird guilt rising in him. It’s not like Yoongi owns the table. “We only usually reserve on Tuesday.”
From his vantage point, he spots the exact moment Somi glances up and smiles at Jimin. “Jimin-ah, could you come see this for a minute?”
Jimin casts Yoongi one last look. “Er, the high stool next to the bathroom is available, if you want.” Then he dashes to Somi’s side.
Jimin faithfully manages not to hold any more eye contact or interaction with Yoongi for the rest of the evening. He busies himself with serving tables, learning coffee, and joins Somi’s side whenever there’s a lull in the crowd.
He does, however, peek at where Yoongi is seated.
First Yoongi took the high stool beside the bathroom door, but after half an hour he’s relocated to 1 of the lounge chairs closer to the bookshelf—Namjoon’s usual spot on Fridays. Not that Jimin was deliberately checking, of course. One must know where his enemy hides, after all.
Nearing the end of Jimin’s shift, while be is busy washing cups, Somi gasps from where she is sitting. Alarmed, Jimin looks across the counter and shoots her a questioning look.
“My laptop battery died. Can I crash your place to continue this later?” Somi asks, pouting.
“Oh. Sure,” Jimin says, shrugging. “You can follow me and hyung home after closing. Tae, too.”
“Yaaay,” Somi celebrates, clapping. “Post-work hangout!”
Jimin smiles fondly. Next to him, Taehyung coughs out loud and leans over the counter, too. “Yoongi-hyung! Wanna join?”
“Yah,” Jimin berates under his breath, softly pinching Taehyung by the waist. “It’s not /your/ house.”
Taehyung cackles and returns his attention to Yoongi, whose face looks like he’d been fed sour lemons.
“No, thanks,” Yoongi mutters.
“No. I’m good.”
Yoongi stands up, packing books and his tablet into his own messenger bag. “I’d hate to be a party pooper.” For once, Jimin doesn’t have to make an effort to avoid meeting his eye, because Yoongi is already doing a stellar job of keeping his gaze trained on the floor.
And although it’s been years since they last had a proper, non-hostile encounter, an uptick of worry in Jimin’s chest makes him frown.
He’s seen the way Yoongi reacts to overwhelming and sudden invitations to places with strangers. He has social anxiety, for heaven’s sake.
As Yoongi scampers off and ducks out of the building, Jimin takes off his apron and takes after him without even fully clocking his actions. It’s like he’s operating on automatic mode. It doesn’t matter how shitty their current relationship is. He doesn’t want Yoongi to spiral—
“Hey,” he exhales, grabbing Yoongi by the elbow right outside the Cacao Crusher’s entrance. The noise of the outdoors fill Jimin’s ears—birds chirping, pedestrian chatter, a bicycle bell from a distance. He doesn’t care. “You okay?”
Yoongi stills for a moment.
Then, without uttering a word, he shakes Jimin’s hand away, gaze still fixated in the ground.
Jimin draws it back, stung.
“I’m fine,” Yoongi says gruffly, turning away. “Don’t be weird. You go spend time and enjoy yourselves.”
“One foot distance. Make it two.”
Jimin drops his hand and steps backward, his earlier wave of worry getting drowned out by a new, stronger emotion: incredulity.
“I don’t know what went wrong,” Jimin mumbles. “But all I know is that I don’t get you anymore.”
Yoongi snorts and finally looks at him. “Likewise.”
Jimin takes a shuddered breath and backtracks as though he’d been slapped, because fuck—it’s probably true. He’s aware of how much he’s gone through the last three years, and it must have reached a point where he’s now unrecognizable. But he’d been true to Yoongi, hadn’t he?
Sure, he’d taken his time, but up ‘til the very last moment, Jimin can confidently declare that he had been nothing but bare and genuine towards his most revered person in the world, at that time. Yoongi once made his universe spin.
How did they get here?
Jimin will never know.
And he doesn’t intend to find out, doesn’t want to confirm his worst fear that after all this time, he is the only one between the two of them who still cares enough to be hurt.
Which is why, without another word, he just shakes his head and turns back into the café.
Jimin stares blankly at the newest letter from Chrysanthemum, feeling too glum to even think of what to answer. With a deep sigh he tucks the letter under his keyboard and trudges downstairs, where he finds Hoseok and Uncle Sejin playing a round of Halli Galli.
“Jimin-ah!” Hoseok exclaims, pausing the game to look up and beckon him over. “Wanna join us?”
Jimin drags his feet to the living room but doesn’t join his relatives on the floor, choosing instead to curl up on the couch to indulge in his own misery. He does watch, though.
For the next ten minutes, there ensues a fierce compation between uncle and son, and everytime either one of them manages to win a stack of cards, they tend to scream like they’re at a horror throller. Jimin finds himself giggling into his sweaterpaws.
In his mind, he tries to relocate this house, tries to picture this scenario with his own family members instead. What would it have been like, he wonders, had his parents not separated? They’d probably still be in Busan, playing Halli Galli like this, and Jimin would be—
If they hadn’t moved away, would he have felt desperate and mindless enough to kiss Yoongi the night he left Daegu?
Because that’s when their relationship soured, right? Jimin had kissed Yoongi in the stupid heat of a moment, and he’d lost his mind trying to mangle his feelings.
It’s not the only time he’s ever lingered on the “what-ifs” of his circumstances, but after getting brushed off so coldly by Yoongi earlier, there’s a new layer of regret thatms expanding in Jimin like a bruise.
If they hadn’t left town, he and Yoongi wouldn’t end up like this.
The sharp ding of the Halli Galli bell yanks him out of his thoughts, making him blink back to the moment.
“Jimin-ah, c’mon,” Hoseok beckons him to join them on the floor, scooting to make space between himself and Uncle Sejin, “you know, the more the merrier!”
Jimin’s mouth lifts slightly.
It doesn’t matter, he tells himself — being stuck in the past and getting hung over things that would never happen won’t do him any good. He should be grateful he’s living better now.
He cracks his knuckles. “Watch out! I’m a Hallo Galli king.”
“Sorry about yesterday,” Taehyung says during their shift at the Cacao Crushers the following afternoon. He runs a hand through his poodle-like poof of hair and sighs. “Yoongi-hyung isn’t usually cold. He’s just—“
“A little antsy?” interjects Jimin.
Tehyung gives a one-shouldered shrug. “In a way. Oh, hey. How’d you know?”
/Because I know how bad his anxiety was/, Jimin thinks to himself. “We kind of- I kinda knew him.”
“Right. You two go way back.”
Jimin shoots him a curious look.
“Ah,” Taehyung smiles. “Hyung told me.”
Right. Jimin reminds himself—Taehyung had also grilled him about his relationship with Yoongi weeks ago, too. But how much does he know? “He… spoke about me?” He clears his throat. “What did he… mention?”
“Not much,” Taehyung shakes his head, “Yoongi-hyung’s pretty private.”
“Ohhh.” Jimin nods and proceeds to wash the dirty cups in the sink.
“I don’t get it, though.” Taehyung leans on the counter next to him and crosses his arms, pouting. “What’s with the mystery? Why won’t either of you just tell me what happened?”
Jimin just shrugs. “Long story.”
“And I’ve got two ears! We have the whole afternoon!”
Jimin shrugs again, carefully setting every clean cup out to dry. “Even if I try, it’s not like I’d know where to start, either. It’s complicated. Just take it as we were friends, but now we’re not.”
“Did you have a fight?”
Jimin pauses. No, they didn’t, and that’s what sucks even more. He would’ve probably felt less resentful if their friendship had soured due to a nasty spat, but nothing like that had occured between him & Yoongi. “Not really. We just stopped talking.”
/He ghosted my confession./
“Here’s an idea. What if you guys just talked it out?” Taehyung wonders aloud.
Jimin hisses out an incredulous snort. “You’ve seen how pissy he is. I can’t even get a word in without some petty retort from him.”
“Well, I guess that’s ‘cause he’s still mopey after his breakup.”
Jimin almost drops the last cup he’s rinsing. He turns to Taehyung, eyes growing round. “His… /what/?”
“Break. Up.” Taehyung enunciates, leaning in closer to Jimin with a twinkling gaze. “Hyung was in a relationship until about two months ago. Doyeon, I think? Yeah, that name.”
It never occured to Jimin that Yoongi might have someone already, or had someone he was in love with. Could that have been the reason why he rejected Jimin’s confession? Maybe he didn’t know how to turn him down gently, so instead of using words Yoongi just… disappeared quietly.
Jimin swallows the uncomfortable choking feeling back down his throat and ignores the twisting sensation in his gut. “Oh.”
“They dated for a while,” Taehyung supplies nonchalantly, nodding to himself.
“Yeah. Since last year?”
“Yeah. Seemed pretty serious.”
The urge to blubber hits Jimin out of nowhere. He starts blinking rapidly to cast out the heat building behind his eyes. This is so ridiculous. He shouldn’t feel so bummed, since he has no right to especially after all this time. And yet.
And yet it sucks knowing he pined alone.
“You know, I had someone too,” Jimin musters his breath to point out. “Like, back in Australia.”
“Ah.” Taehyung nods for him to continue, eyes filled with a thrill Jimin can’t pin down. “Did you, now?”
“Yeah! I dated him for about a year, too. He was the sweetest,” Jimin says.
“But of course!” Taehyung concurs enthusiastically. “You deserve someone who treats you well. Nothing but the best for our Jiminie who’s a catch.”
Jimin cracks a tiny smile. “I didn’t deserve him.”
“Don’t say that. What was his name?”
Taehyung nods slowly. “Taemin.”
“Mmm.” The memory of his ex-boyfriend brings a fond smile to Jimin’s face. Despite Taehyung’s words, Jimin knows deep down how much Taemin deserved better than what he could give. “Good times.”
“Say, if Taemin and Yoongi-hyung walked in right now, who would you give Table 7 to?”
Jimin’s jaw drops as he sends Taehyung his best “what-the-fuck” look, but he’s saved from answering when a new swarm of middle-schoolers pour into the café. The tension seeps out of him, and he shimmies away from Taehyung’s watchful gaze.
He’s never been so grateful for a crowd.
(brb i’m brewing myself some tea ^_^)
Yoongi does not turn up to the Cacao Crushers the following Tuesday.
Not that Jimin was purposely keeping track. It’s just that, when you keep one table reserved for long enough through the afternoon, sooner or later other customers will start wondering if it’ll open up at all.
After the sun sets, Hoseok finally gives Jimin the go-ahead sign to remove the ‘RESERVED’ sign from the table, much to Jimin’s dismay.
He shouldn’t be having this sinking feeling at all. If anything, it’s wonderful that he doesn’t have to deal with Yoongi at work. Great!
Except… it bugs Jimin. For the rest of his work shift, he wonders if Decaf Dude’s sudden absence has anything to do with Jimin’s senseless probing last week. Perhaps he shouldn’t have chased Yoongi at all, hadn’t brought up their ‘conflict’. Maybe Yoongi is turned off now.
Besides his annoyance at the situation, there is an apprehension gnawing at him, knowing his existence alone cost the Cacao Crushers one of its most loyal customers. Sure he’d meant to annoy Yoongi, maybe diss him a little—but a part of him would be miserable if Yoongi just left.
Which is why he’s grateful for the distraction from his thoughts when, an hour before the café closes, his phone buzzes with an incoming call. He checks the caller ID: [INFP vs. ENFP]
“Chiiiiim.” /Cough. Cough./ “It’s me, your dying friend.” /Wheeze./
“I caught the flu, m’friend. I have days to live.”
“Um.” Jimin scratches his head. “Um. Where are you, right now? Are you resting at home? Did you take your meds?”
“I’m in my sharehouse room. My roommate’s staying with his girlfriend, so he’ll be safe,” Taehyung says hoarsely.
“Please make sure you eat,” Jimin says, feeling his Emergency Big Brother mode kick into gear. “Is there anyone else with you?”
Jimin hums dubiously. “I could bring you something– ah, but we only have cakes left.”
“It’s okay. Listen, I left my tablet beside the cashier.”
Peeking over the counter, Jimin spots the device Taehyung often carries around to their lectures. “Yeah, I see it.”
“I have an online quiz tomorrow, but my notes are on it,” Taehyung says, his satoori thick, pausing in-between to sneeze. “D’you think you can drop it off here?”
Jimin nods even though he can’t be seen. “Yeah, sure. Text me your address, I’ll drop by after we close shop.”
“Sweet. You’re the best, Chim Chim.”
“Drink plenty of water.”
“Yea, yea. See ya.”
Jimin pockets his phone and calls out to Hoseok. “Hyung! I’m leaving right after.”
Hoseok hums, bent over as he arranges cakes in the display fridge. “Sure. Where you off to?”
“Taehyung’s sick.” Jimin reaches for his friend’s tablet on the cash register counter. “I’m dropping this off at his place.”
“Ah.” Hoseok says. A second later, he stiffens. “He’s sick?”
Jimin nods as he stuffs the tablet into his backpack. “Yeah. Wanna come with?”
“Er.” Hoseok’s head disappears below the counter as he resumes arranging the delicacies on display. “I mean, what would I even do there?”
“Nothing. Just show up.”
“Let’s bring meds.”
“He has meds.”
Hoseok stands up, and turns around to survey their chalkboard menu on the wall. “He’s not into coffee but he likes our tea right? The fruity ones.”
“Yeah, ‘cos he’s fruity,” Jimin says.
“I’ll pack that.” Without another word, Hoseok turns and grabs the mop. “Let’s close quick.”
They alight at Hyehwa Station, where Taehyung’s sharehouse is located, and take a five-minute walk until they arrive in front of a two-storey house painted a charming daffodil-yellow.
Jimin rings the doorbell, an uncharacteristically quiet Hoseok waiting next to him.
The door swings open. Jimin bows quickly and opens his mouth for pleasantries—
—only to close it the moment he recognizes the person who answered the door.
“Oh?” Hoseok gestures to the guy in a black hoodie. “Decaf Dude! Hey!” He glances at the sharehouse. “You stay here?”
“Oh, come on…” Jimin mutters under his breath, looking anywhere but at Yoongi, who is blinkint slowly from Hoseok to him as though wondering how they got summoned here.
Rather than acknowledge Jimin, Yoongi waves to Hoseok. “Just visiting a sick friend.”
“Where is he?” Hoseok asks as Yoongi steps aside to let them through. “We brought him tea. Oh, and Jimin brought his tablet.”
Yoongi barely casts Jimin a cursory glance. “Upstairs.”
Jimin balks. Treating him like he’s invisible? Fine. Two can play at that game.
Sullenly, he trails after Hoseok and Yoongi while his cousin formally introduces himself to their regular customer.
“Isn’t that great? I finally know our regular’s name!” Hoseok says cheerily as they climb the staircase.
Yoongi hums and nods. Jimin can’t guess his expression.
They stop in front of a plain grey door. Yoongi knocks twice and leans closer. “Taehyung-ah, people from your workplace are here to see you.”
A low, muffled “yes”, emanates from inside. Yoongi twists the doorknob and steps in.
There are two beds in the cramped room, one empty.
The occupied one has an unmoving, human-sized lump nestled beneath a dark brown duvet, with only his trademark curly mop of hair poking out from the top. Slowly, Taehyung pulls down the covers to peep…only to realize Jimin isn’t his only visitor.
“Hyung?” Taehyung’s eyes widen.
“Yaaah, our Taehyungie,” Hoseok says as he inches closer to the bedside, “are you feeling sickly? Where does it hurt? Hmm? Tell hyung.” He drops the paper bag of tea by the foot of Taehyung’s bed and leans over to press a palm to Taehyung’s forehead. “Ah. You’re very warm.”
If he weren’t so concerned over his friend’s condition, Jimin would have bent over laughing at how scarlet Taehyung’s neck and cheeks have turned. For someone so talkative, he’s surprisingly tame as a mouse under Hoseok’s strict affection.
Once upon a time, Jimin had that, too.
How cruel it is, Jimin muses, that the person he once bared everything to stands before him now, arms crossed as he watches coolly from the doorway. He ignores the sharp pang in his chest and takes out Taehyung’s tablet from his bag.
“Here, study hard, bro.”
Taehyung sniffles and sits up to accept. With a red nose and a slightly nasal voice he answers, “Thabks, Jibib.”
Jimin chuckles and glances at the paperbag Hoseok brought. “Make sure to eat before you drink the tea.”
“No worries about about that,” Yoongi pipes up. “I fed him.”
“And if you haven’t eaten, I’ll step out for a bit and get you something warm,” Jimin continues with a placid expression.
“There’s dumpling soup on the stove,” Yoongi mumbles, disgruntled.
“So. Do you want porridge?”
Hoseok and Taehyung’s gazes flicker between him and Yoongi.
“No need to spend pointlessly. There’s food for the kid,” Yoongi says.
Fed up, Jimin spins and levels an pointed scowl at Yoongi. “Wasn’t talking to you.”
“I’m just stating facts.” Yoongi remains still, leaning ever so casually against the doorframe. “Not making conversation.”
“Aaah, noisy.” Taehyung clamps both hands over his ears and sinks back down under his blanket. “Noise isn’t good for the baby.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “What baby.”
“Me.” Taehyung shoots his friend a squinty-eyed look. “I’m the baby.”
Hoseok cracks up and pats his head.
“If you guys are planning to just stand there and keep fighting, please do it elsewhere. My head, ahhh it hurts,” Taehyung moans. He rolls over and clutches his temples. “I’m so ready for the grave. Please write on my headstone,” he tells Hoseok pitifully.
Hoseok tucks the blanket more snugly under Taehyung’s chin before turning to them. “I’ll take over from here. Maybe you two can head home first and rest.” He shoots Yoongi a grateful smile and salutes. “Don’t mind if I try some of your dumpling soup.”
Yoongi ducks his head.
And if there’s anything that ticks Jimin off the most, it’s the fact that he knows exactly how to read this signature gesture of Yoongi’s. Whenever he dips his head like that it’s almost always because he’s trying to fight back a flustered smile, or he’s feeling bashful.
Jimin shakes his head. Fuck Min Yoongi and his body language.
He needs to remember this isn’t /his/ dandelion from years ago.
“I’ll go first.” Jimin shoulders his backpack and heads for the door. “Text me when you’re feeling better, Tae.”
To his annoyance, Yoongi leaves, too.
Jimin huffs as they step out of the front door one after another, then glowers at Yoongi as they descend the steps to the pavement.
“What,” intones Yoongi.
Jimin presses his lips in a thin line and pointedly steps away. “Two feet’s distance. Your rules, remember?”
Expression ever unchanging, Yoongi shrugs and makes a grand show of ensuring he is always a few paces behind Jimin. “Satisfied?”
Jimin’s shoulders relax, and he turns to start walking again. “Good.”
“Wasn’t planning to come any nearer, anyway.”
“As you should.”
Silence settles over them for the next several minutes until Jimin glances over his shoulder and spots Yoongi still pacing behind him. He stops and folds his arms with a huff. “Why are you /following/ me?”
Yoongi wrinkles his nose at him & points behind Jimin.
Jimin follows his line of sight, then whips his head back around to scoff. “Why- why are you taking public transport anyway?”
“Are you seriously gatekeeping the subway?”
“Don’t you have a car? Tae mentioned you drop him home sometimes.”
“Why? Want me to do the same for you?”
“Nooo, what makes you think I, Park Jimin, would willingly spend more than 2 minutes with you?”
“My thoughts precisely,” Yoongi says, nodding nonchalantly. “And FYI, likewise. So it’s fascinating how you think I’d follow you.”
“Taste of your own medicine. You assumed the same.”
“My judgment are based on logic. Yours is based on…” Yoongi’s eyes scrutinize Jimin from top to bottom.
“On what?” Jimins steps closer, nostrils flaring.
“On fantasy,” states Yoongi with a bracket-shaped smile.
“Get over yourself. You wish I fantasized about your single ass.”
“I’m single by choice,” Yoongi informs him coolly.
“Whose choice, yours or theirs?” Jimin fires back with a devilish grin. That earns him a scowl. “Oh, so I’m right.”
Yoongi gestures to the space between them. “And you’re also too close. Maybe we should start a fining system.”
Jimin unclenches his jaw and steps backwards, willing his lungs to inhale and exhale in as calm a manner as possible. It’s frustrating how riled up he always gets, meanwhile Yoongi can always stay so… unaffected.
How unfair! “Fine with me. 500 won every time we cross the line.”
A nod from Yoongi. “Fine.”
“Fine.” Jimin licks his lower lip, drown deepening. “Starting today?”
“Starting tomorrow. Today’s too shitty to think about.”
Jimin fakes a smile. “Pleased to know I have such an effect on you.”
“Ah, yes.” Yoongi nods. “Kindly ruin my day, please.”
“Whatever.” Jimin turns on his heel and stalks off, telling himself not to care that Yoongi is still walking right behind him.
To say that Hyehwa Station’s subway platform is crowded would be an understatement. Jimin waits by one door, and Yoongi designates a separate one.
When the train arrives, they step inside their reapective with the hordes of other passengers. Jimin internally celebrates finally, finally being able to breathe away from Yoongi’s presence.
But when the train stops at Dongdaemun, a new mob pushes in, shoving Jimin further in.
Jimin squirms, gritting his teeth as he fights to hold his ground while the growing throng of people pulses and meanders roughly past his shoulders until he stumbles to the edge of the next carriage, near the doors. The train jolts and sends him accidentally stepping on a shoe.
“Sorry,” Jimin mumbles absently, bowing at the middle-aged man who dismisses him with a wave.
A muffled snicker steals his attention. Jimin turns just in time to see Yoongi next to him, leaning against the glass paneling next to the subway’s doors, arms folded, head ducked.
Jimin quietly wishes he’d stepped on Yoongi’s shoe instead.
Several quiet moments pass, with the two of them ignoring how blatantly pressed up against each other their positions are. The train jolts again, sending two petite women in front of Yoongi crashing into his chest.
Jimin watches as, by instinct, Yoongi’s hands shoot out to steady one of the women by the shoulders. But she inhales sharply and swats his arms away with a sneer.
“Get those hands off me,” she hisses, nudging Yoongi’s ribs with a pointed elbow as she turns away.
The exact moment when Yoongi’s cool shuts down doesn’t escape Jimin’s notice: Yoongi’s lower lip trembles and his entire demeanor transforms. Shoulders curling in, he drops his head and folds his arms as though to self-soothe. He mumbles an apology.
Jimin’s body goes cold. It takes all of his restraint to avoid staring daggers at the lady, who’s turned completely away from their direction.
Racking his brain, Jimin can only think of one solution. He waits until the train veers sharply, using the momentum to stumble forward.
In doing so, he cuts into the divide between Yoongi and every other person in the train. Jimin clears his throat and casually raises both arms, spreading them outwards like a human shield.
Yoongi’s eyes flicker from the floor to his. Wordlessly, Jimin yanks his hood up. “Hide.”
He doesn’t want to think about why he’s doing all of this, just focuses on how it felt so wrong seeing other people treat Yoongi that way. There’s like an unspoken rule inside of Jimin, where only he should be allowed to annoy the fuck out of Yoongi. Maybe he’s being petty.
But he hates seeing Yoongi go pale-faced like this, hates knowing there’s nothing much he can do for someone who suffers so quietly. Without thinking, he offers one of earphones hanging around his neck.
Yoongi eyes it skeptically. Jimin rolls his eyes and plugs one into his ear.
Jimin pulls out his phone and chooses a slower song before he hits play, leaning on one forearm. He’s keenly aware of Yoongi standing stiff cornered by him, mere inches away, but at the moment Jimin is more concerned with making the older’s frame stop trembling so much.
Pocketing his phone, Jimin looks up to find Yoongi’s dark gaze burning into his, a question lurking in those depths.
Jimin makes a face. “Don’t think I’m playing nice,” he murmurs next to Yoongi’s ear. “I’m just saving the world from having to see your face.”
Pulling back, Jimin keeps his frown while scanning Yoongi’s demeanor. Yep, the shaking has ceased considerably, and his arms aren’t crossed so tightly anymore. The color is back in his cheeks too—
“Chungmuro,” the subway’s announcer cuts into his thoughts. Yoongi jerks upright.
“Move,” he mutters darkly, and Jimin raises in smooth surrender.
The train doors open, letting out a flood of passengers including Yoongi. Jimin settles against the glass paneling where Yoongi had been leaning on mere moments ago, eyes glued to his ex-friend.
If he looks back…
If he looks back, Jimin will… will what?
He hasn’t really thought this through.
What Jimin has been internally ruminating on, though, is the fact that Taehyung never specified if Yoongi’s ex was a man or a woman. Because what if?
The last of the crowd steps off the subway.
Fuelled by panic, Jimin can’t bring himself to wait for a miracle.
“Hyung!” he calls out at the same time that Yoongi’s steps falter and his head twists ever-so-slightly to cast him a sidelong glance. Then, surprised at being called, Yoongi’s gaze turns alert. He faces Jimin.
“Doyeon,” Jimin’s voice cracke with nerves, and he swallows it down, “was a guy or a girl?”
Yoongi’s eyebrows knit together, and Jimin can almost see him putting his question together in the broader sense in his mind. Rather than answer, he just looks at Jimin like he’s stunned.
The trains doors close, splitting the image of Yoongi’s astonished face right down the seam where both doors meet.
“Your face,” Jungkook says as soon as the video call connects, “it’s giving Constipated Through Traffic.”
“Shut up,” Jimin says, unable to stop pacing the length of his room. “I’ve done something risky today. This… this is more hellish than constipation.”
“No. Emotional damage.”
“E-mow-she-nal DA-mage!” Jungkook parrots.
“Yes. I uh, I kind of. I asked Yoongi-hyung a risky question. And he didn’t get to answer. But I’m nervous, because I don’t know what he thinks.”
“And you care about what he thinks… why?” Jungkook prods.
Jimin clutches both sides of his head. “Because I’m a certified neurotic with a Type A personality, AND a Libra with a turbulent MBTI?”
Jungkook stares at him in complete silence for 5 seconds. “Hyung.”
“Please go face the wall.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Yoongi shows up at The Cacao Crushers’ entrance, and the entire staff goes berserk.
Well, /Jimin/ goes berserk, but he chalks it up to the fact that Table 7 is occupied, so where will Yoongi go? Furthermore, isn’t it a non-Tuesday?
“It’s not Tuesday,” is what he cleverly tells Yoongi when he comes up to the cashier. He looks a little neater than usual. A black turtleneck and dark washed jeans paired with boots. Is he going for an interview?
“I know,” Yoongi simply says. “One decaf, please.”
Jimin bites back his tongue and feigns nonchalance as he keys in Yoongi’s order. If Yoongi usually comes only on Tuesdays, why is he here on a Wednesday? It’s not wrong of Jimin to suddenly wonder, right?
His mind flashes to yesterday’s impulsiveness, and he cringes. Please, no.
If Yoongi’s here to give him an answer, Jimin would very much rather not hear it. At least, not at the moment, when he feels trapped in his own stupidity.
While Yoongi pays, he says, “Anyway—“
“So like, are you here for a date or something?” Jimin quizzes, busy with cashiering.
Yoongi cocks his head. “I don’t see why that should concern you.”
Jimin lets out a sharp bark of laughter. “I’m just making an observation as a casual witness of our regular customer’s life. I’d be surprised if you actually DO manage to snag a hotshot—“
At that moment, the café’s doors swing open to let in a man so beautiful he makes literally almost everyone in the café pause to stare at him. With tofu skin and sleepy eyes, his face is already striking; what makes Jimin gawk is his wavy, silky blonde hair:
How anybody manages to maintain their hair that wel is beyond Jimin. Last he looked in the mirror, his own blonde hair is already starting to fade something closer to dry wheat, showing his dark roots near his scalp.
“Hey, Jeonghan,” Yoongi says. “Just in time. Grab a seat.”
“Thanks,” Jeonghan says with a reserved smile. He has this airy, whimsical manner about him that makes him come across as delicate, in a very refined way.
He’s so beautiful, Jimin thinks.
“What do you want to get?” Yoongi says.
“Green tea. Hot.”
Yoongi repeats the order.
If Jimin punched in the order on the cashier keyboard a little too hard, nobody comments on it. And if Jimin may or may not have set down their orders on their designated table (near the door instead of Table 7, this time) a tad too heavily, he doesn’t care.
How he wishes Taehyung were here. Alas, the boy is still sick and unable to turn up for his closing shift today, according to Hoseok.
“He’ll be back by Friday,” Hoseok says. “I’m making sure he’ll be recovered by then.”
Jimin raises a curious eyebrow at that, but doesn’t prod.
At the end of Yoongi’s ‘date’, he returns to the counter and lingers about until Jimin resumes his designated cashiering duty for the day.
“About the decaf,” Yoongi drawls, rocking back and forth on the heels of his feet. “It’s a bit too… diluted, today. Just some feedback.”
Jimin frowns at that, but before he can respond, he hears Hoseok’s voice answering from behind him, “Oh, thank you for the feedback!”
Yoongi falters as his gaze slips from Jimin to Hoseok, who he actually sends a genuine smile to, before he finally leaves the café with his date.
“He’s being preposterous!” Jimin complains to Namjoon while ordering bubble tea on campus the next day. It’s one of Namjoon’s less hectic days where he can meet up with Jimin to hang out, albeit only for a short time. “I can’t figure him out!”
“Then don’t.” Namjoons says simply.
“I’m just… so frustrated,” Jimin says, kicking a stray pebble. “If only I could see what he’s try to get at, that would explain everything that’s not clicking at the moment.”
“I believe in letting people’s actions speak for themselves,” says Namjoon, slurping his boba tea.
“What if they’re inconsistent?” asks Jimin. “I kinda asked if he’s into guys.”
Namjoon accidentally slurps a boba pearl too hard until it gets lodged in his throat. He coughs and wheezes, face reddening, and Jimin passes him a water bottle. “Like, how?”
“I asked about his ex.”
“Did he answer?”
“No. But he did turn up to the café the next day with a guy.”
Namjoon looks at him for a very long time, lips pressed together tightly.
“What?” asks Jimin. “I’m just annoyed and overthinking, okay.”
“Maybe look a little deeper.”
And so, Jimin vows to be a little but more observant. Surely there should be a pattern somewhere.
But then, on Thursday afternoon, Yoongi shows up once more… this time with a lady in tow. She’s dressed in a pretty white cardigan over a beige dress, her black hair curled.
For once, Yoongi orders something different off the menu—hot citron tea, the same as what his current date ordered. Jimin sighs, feeling the first signs of defeat slowly creeping into him, banishing the confusion eating him up only yesterday.
Maybe Yoongi is a serial dater.
“Look at him, what’s he in leaning in so close to her for?” Jimin says, peeping from behind the coffee machine. “And what are they reading on the table that they have to put their heads together like that? The menu? ‘Cos we sure didn’t diberately make the font bigger for that.”
“Who are you talking to, kid?” The middle aged Kangwoo says with a gruff laugh as he passes by Jimin. “You high or somethin’?”
Jimin licks his bottom lip and shakes his head. “I was just… rehearsing lines for a class presentation.”
“Well, good luck.”
[jimin of the park]
he’s in the café again
on a THURSDAY
with a GIRL
[nam of the june]
[jimin of the park]
you dont understand
he’s been here everyday
w diff people :\
[nam of the june]
maybe they’re friends?
you could ask
[jimin of the park]
WHY SHOULD I SDFKD
[nam of june]
do you think maybe he’ll be around tmrw?
i’ll be around
[jimin of the park]
aaaaaaa yes pls
if you’re around i think i can face him
like, bolder. braver. better
[nam of the june]
c u tmrw
Friday comes around soon enough.
“I can’t believe we’re actually doing this.” Jungkook’s face is bobbing on Namjoon’s phone while Namjoon props his phone on Table 3 to give a clear view of Table 7. “Why am I here?”
“As prime witness No. 2.” Jimin says, sitting across Namjoon.
“Can I shout ‘Drop your weapons’ if your Min Yoongi happens to waltz in with a hot date?” asks Jungkook.
“Hyung, please mute Kook.”
Namjoon bites back a snicker and lowers his phone’s volume. “Sorry, baby.”
Jimin gapes at Namjoon. He’s gonna have to grill him about that later.
“So I’m finally seeing the childhood penpal’s face, huh,” Namjoon says, rubbing his hands together. “Who would’ve thought?”
“We’ll see.” Jimin glances outside. “I don’t even know if he’ll come today. I don’t wanna be stuck-up but it feels like he does it just to piss me off.”
“What, come to the café?”
Jimin nods. “Everyday. And not just that, he /always/ has ‘feedback’ to give! You know what he told me yesterday? The tea was too bitter.” He harrumphs. “But it’s literally tea! It’s supposed to have some bitterness in it! What was I supposed to do?”
At that moment, the glass door to the Cacao Crushers opens, followed by the bell chime. Jimin hops out of his seat and straightens his apron. “Anyway, today I seek to diffuse the situation. I’ll ask him to write a feedback form instead of verbally complaining to me all the time.”
Sure enough, the person walking into the coffeeshop is none other than his Archnemesis, Giver of Complaint, Unreadable Decaf Dude and Ex-Penpal. “Here he comes.”
“Okay. I’ll join the line to order when he does,” Namjoon assures him, patting the small of Jimin’s back. “Go, go!”
Jimin scuttles back to his place behind the counter and joins Hoseok at the cash register.
“Oh, awesome,” Hoseok says, stepping back to let Jimin take over. “Noona is stepping out to grab milk because the delivery got delayed, so I’ll be on coffee today. You okay with orders?”
Jimin flashes him two thumbs up. “You can count on me.”
Hoseok beams at him, then glances at the clock. “I hope Taehyung comes soon. I get ansty when we’re understaffed on a weekend.”
“Taehyung’s coming?” Jimin says.
“Yeah. Said he’s all better. He texted me last night.”
At his words, Jimin hides a careful smile and turns his attention to the counter. From the corner of his eye, Jimin notes Yoongi designating his trusty old sunlit spot by the window, taking his time to calmly put down his bag & settle in. He’s alone today.
Jimin’s phone buzzes.
[nam of the june]
i think this guy lives in my block
idk i think i’ve seen him around
so that’s him, huh
Jimin’s eye blow wider than teacups, mouth dropping open as he progressively reads Namjoon’s messages. How could the world be THAT small?
[jimin of the park]
He’s about to type more, but at that moment he spies Yoongi getting up from his seat to join the order queue. Jimin rakes a hand over his hair & inhales deeply to calm his jitters. He needs to keep his cool. Especially with Yoongi looking like he just stepped out of a photoshoot.
His pink-tipped mullet is lightening to a peachy hue, but it suits his milky skin tone. And what’s up with the leather jacket? It’s already late spring. Isn’t Yoongi feeling warm?
“Hi, what can I get you?” Jimin pastes a smile on his face, watching Namjoon line up behind Yoongi.
Yoongi hums, voice low and even while scanning the large chalkboard menu on the wall behind Jimin.
“Is it a decaf again, today?” Jimin says. At that moment, the bell chime tinkles and in rushes Taehyung, his poodle-hair bobbing as he brisk-walks towards the counter.
Jimin nods to his friend in acknowledgment and looks back at Yoongi, who’s also waving to Taehyung.
“I’ll just get a long black, today,” Yoongi says.
Jimin arches an eyebrow. “Iced like you used to?”
Yoongi’s gaze veers sharply from the menu to him.
Of course Jimin remembers the first and only time he’s heard Yoongi order his preference at a café, once upon a first meeting several years ago. They’d ordered for each other, back then. They used to text every night, rambling about their interests and pet peeves.
He brushes off the sudden burning, tearing numbness robs him of his breath and forces himself to focus on the matter at hand. He gulps. “Which made me wonder why the switch to decaf. It’s like you suddenly became tasteless or something.”
Yoongi’s eyes darken, then go cold.
“I thought not passing on judgments about customers’ orders was a staple in any service industry manual,” Yoongi drawls, pocketing his hands. “But I guess that rule doesn’t apply to you.”
Jimin scowls. “Just saying.”
“I quit decaf. It’s gotten ick ever since /you/ came here.”
Briefly, Jimin catches Namjoon’s watchful eye from behind Yoongi, and sends his friend a look as if to say, /Are you hearing this?/
Namjoon just shakes his head and shrugs.
“Why…” Jimin sighs and looks Yoongi in the eye, his heartbeat loud in his ears. “Why do you do this?”
“What, order drinks at a coffeeshop?” Yoongi smirks at his own wit. “Was I supposed to hold a concert, then?”
“No. This,” Jimin says, for once feeling too drained to keep going. “You come here and piss me off and put me on edge. I get the feeling that you wanna say something.”
He feels a presence take his side just as Taehyung slings an arm over Jimin’s shoulder without a word. Jimin can’t be bothered to entertain him, not when he and Yoongi are here, on the precipice of something Jimin’s been dying to solve. “If you have something to say, tell me.”
From his periphery, the glass door swings open again. The bell chimes, and Taehyung greets, “Welcome!”
Jimin spares a glance at the newcomer and his spine goes rigid.
It’s been years. Jimin’s tongue crawls back into his mouth, still intimidated.
Namjoon mutters, “EatJin.”
Jimin supposes that Seokjin must sense the holdup in the order queue, or probably saw the way Yoongi is started to curl into himself, because then the handsome young man strides right up to them and takes Yoongi’s side. “Yo, bro. Sorry I’m late.”
He does a double take at Jimin.
Jimin gulps and fights the stifling urge to shrink back.
“What’s going on?” asks Seokjin, eyes flicking between them.
“Jimin-ah?” Hoseok’s head pops in from the end of the counter. “What’s with the hold-up? Everything okay?”
“Uh,” Taehyung squeezes Jimin’s shoulder.
Jimin cracks. “Listen,” he tells Yoongi, scratching the back of his nape, which is damp with sweat despite the air conditioning. His palms are clammy. “Just order for now please, we can—“
“No.” Next to Seokjin, Yoongi seems to grow steady, to unfurl like a wilting plant watered.
Jimin pauses, fixated on the way Yoongi’s Adam’s apple bobs up & down. Every other person around him holds his breath, too.
“You’re wondering why I’m still here. So am I,” Yoongi says mutedly. Leaning slightly against Seokjin, he points at his lips. “This. Take responsibility.”
Taehyung gasps and starts shaking Jimin by the shoulder. Hoseok lets out a confused, warbled noise.
Jimin’s vision tunnels. He clocks the way Seokjin sighs and massages the bridge of his nose. Namjoon lets out a quiet laugh.
On the video call, Jungkook says, “Emotional damage.”
I feel like I can finally in relief after this long update!!!!!
So… thoughts? :>
Please, help me save up for my semester exchange! If you enjoy DMF, I’d appreciate a cuppa coffee uwu I hope my writing is worth it!
In the middle of work in this busy week yet still managed to do some Dear My Friend #YoonMin fanart.
And it's all because of @dubu ☁︎'s little tweet of throat infections & blowjobs.
By the way, this is High School era DMF.
my hands were itching for making a moodboard for one of my faves, so I finally did.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
There is an analog wall clock hanging next to the Cacao Crushers’ chalkboard menu, one of those old loud ones where on really quiet business days Jimin can hear the second counter ticking the slow hour away.
Tick, tock. His heartbeat is faster than that.
He swallows, unable to rip his gaze away from Yoongi’s probing, almost accusatory stare. It seems the entire café has gone quiet, or maybe Jimin’s ears have just attuned themselves to his immediate proximity. Taehyung is shaking and wringing his neck like there’s no tomorrow.
Jimin’s tongue has detonated, it seems, because he swears he can taste brimstone in his mouth. In a flash, memories of that night in Daegu surge into his mind, making him want to scream and cringe and maybe crawl into an underground rabbit burrow for the next 10 years.
He clears his throat. Yoongi flinches. Jimin has no idea what his brain is doing, except the next thing he knows it’s his voice croaking out, “That’s it?”
Yoongi’s mouth curves downwards. His brows knit together. “What is that supposed to mean.”
Jimin licks his bottom lip.
Why did that come out of his mouth? He doesn’t know how to explain or justify himself. He’d kissed Yoongi because he was attracted to him, maybe even in love with him, but how can he say that without admitting the… feelings part?
Of all people, it’s Hoseok who cuts the tension.
“Just to clarify what I heard,” says Jimin’s dependable cousin, “it’s a long black, right? Iced?” Hoseok gently nudges Jimin to step aside using his hip & stands before the cash register instead. He glances askance at Taehyung, who nods and drags Jimin behind the display fridge.
“Uh. Yeah,” he hears Yoongi answer dubiously. Jimin resolutely avoids looking his way.
“Bro. What was /that/ all about?” Taehyung hisses under his breath, eyes ablaze with an amber glow that can’t possibly just be the café’s warm lighting. He looks high.
“Ow- ow, Tae. My arm.”
Jimin shoots his friend a pointed look, and Taehyung finally extricates his own grip so that he doesn’t end up ripping Jimin’s shoulder from its socket. “So my hunch was right. You and hyung were a /thing/.”
“No we weren’t.”
“You guys kissed, though.”
Gosh. Jimin might puke.
There’s a dreadful curdle in his stomach, like he’d just dunked a pitcher of spoilt milk, and that combined with the anxiety from moments ago makes him a little woozy, a lot delirious. Jimin emits a garbled chortle. “We were just friends.”
“Us, too! But we never kissed.”
Jimin gives Taehyung a hapless stare. Taehyung is grinning like he’s mighty proud of himself, like he might start busting into a musical song and dance right then and there.
“Alright, you can take your seat and we’ll serve your order,” he hears Hoseok saying, polite as ever.
Yoongi nods, but instead of returning to his seat with Seokjin as Jimin expected (hoped), the guy actually walks to the display fridge where he and Taehyung are hiding, face stony, and stares Jimin down.
If this isn’t a fever dream, Jimin is sure it’s a secret camera prank.
Jimin screws his eyes shut and curses under his breath. There’s no running away. Okay, alright. He needs to face the music. It’s not like he’d expected to escape a confrontation forever. It was only a matter of time.
Slowly, he stands upright, popping his head over the display.
Taehyung unfolds and sidles next to him too, whispering in his ear, “You gotta settle the score, bro.”
Jimin lets out a shaky exhale. Right. And settle the score he must.
“Um,” he says, voice vibrating in the most un-Jimin-like fashion ever. Yoongi lifts a brow at him. “Hi.”
And then, in the most Yoongi-esque manner ever, the guy in front of him uses Jimin’s own words against him: “That’s it?”
“Look.” Jimin splays his hand on top of the display’s glass casing, only to glance down & realize his hands are trembling. Although it’s probably just his mind, he feels too many eyes on him, right now. At this rate he might burst into tears. “Um. Listen—“
“Later,” Yoongi says.
Jimin pauses. “Huh?”
“Talk later.” Yoongi’s eyes dart about the café. He lowers his voice to a volume only he and Jimin can hear, as if he knows can sense how out of whack and self-conscious Jimin’s feeling. “When you guys close.”
Without another word, he turns and stalks away.
That leaves Jimin with Seokjin, who watches his stepbrother take a seat at Table 7.
Jimin gulps and lowers his head, letting out a breath he doesn’t remember holding. In front of Yoongi’s family, he feels incredibly small and insignificant. He can’t look Seokjin in the eye.
Until he hears, “I’m glad you’re well, Jimin.”
He looks up. Seokjin isn’t quite smiling at him—his face is a mixture of exasperation, a little exhausted, eyes strained—but at least there’s zero trace of malice in it.
Jimin fights back a soft sob.
“Yo, hyung!” greets Taehyung.
Seokjin /does/ crack a little smile, then, eyeing Taehyung and Jimin and back again. “Small world, huh?” He moves to Table 7 to sit opposite Yoongi.
It’s a bit strange, Jimin thinks, to not get shredded for once. He’s gotten so used to just… being held accountable all the time.
He doesn’t know how to react to small kindnesses, especially from the very people he’s done wrong. Hence why he dreads what’s next even more.
Whenever the world seems to be letting him off the hook, Jimin has learned to brace himself for even worse days to come.
The next 2 hours to closing time should be noted down in history as the Clumsiest Park Jimin Has Ever Behaved. He drops more than 2 dirty trays and breaks his first glass ever, which he apologizes profusely for. Even with support from Taehyung and Hoseok, he feels out of sorts.
It’s not even as if Yoongi and Seokjin are giving him a hard time as demanding customers, no—it’s Jimin’s own psyche doing him dirty. As much as he tells himself to ignore Table 7 he can’t help feeling hyper-conscious of that particular corner. He’s out of focus. He’ll get fired.
He jerks, startled when Namjoon’s voice calls him out of the blue.
Namjoon beckons him forward, and Jimin obliges. As he approaches, his hyung holds out a little sticker for him.
“I got Mangnanyong from today’s bread roll,” Namjoon says brightly. “For you. Take it.”
“Eh?” Jimin blinks, cheeks bunching up slightly. “Really?”
“It’s a sacrificial offering,” Jimin hears Jungkook’s static-y voice filtering from Namjoon’s phone. Jimin cracks up to see his Busan friend’s face floating on screen. “Hyung doesn’t even give me his Mangnanyong pulls!”
“I thought you were muted,” chides Jimin.
Jungkook turns up his nose. “That was /forever/ ago.”
“You want me to stick around until closing?” Namjoon says pointedly.
Jimin hesistates. “I don’t wanna burden—“
“Oh, man. I have sooo much homework. I guess I’ll finish it here.”
Jimin stares at Namjoon, who shrugs as a response.
“I have no choice but to stay here. You won’t kick me out, will you, Jimin-ah?”
He’s sneaky. Jimin sighs, releasing some of the pent-up tension building in his shoulders, and lightly punches Namjoon’s shoulder. “Thanks.”
5 boys sit around a long table in a now-empty, half-lit café. A ‘CLOSED’ sign dangles from its glass doors outside whilst pedestrians scurry home under a light drizzle.
Jimin sits between Namjoon and Taehyung. Hoseok busies himself with the broom.