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The warm breeze that time carried passed by in merely a blink. 

Not that Jimin was complaining, he’d rather sacrifice a soul to keep it like that. Because the death of summer meant work, which was a welcomed distraction from the demons within him that crawled through his innermost ladders and fucked with his mind in the dark.

The campus looked just the same as last year; a sprawling, multi-floored main building, next to many others, spread out besides a small courtyard, commonly used as a sports field, and a hang out area for many of the students and staff. Except that the buildings were now repainted. The previous paint had fallen off, now they were a different color. The walls used to be colored purely with a dark brown shade, but the new color is a lighter beige one, with an accent of a yellow lemon shade. 

Jimin liked it better this way. It looked more of a school like this, and less like a haunted building, and he knew the students would agree if the way they were looking at it with mouths wide open and glimmering eyes was anything to go by. He headed straight to his desk in the facility to drop off his things and get ready for the first class of the first day. 

He ran his hands through his newly dyed hair, and looked in the mirror to check his black slacks and pale white button-up shirt and see if he looked decent enough to stand in front of his students. His previous dark brown hair was now a platinum blonde. Teachers having unnatural hair colors was not ideal but it wasn’t prohibited either, that's why Jimin wanted to try it. He wanted some change and this counted as one.

“Woah, Teacher Park, looking good!” A familiar deep honeyed voice said in reverence, clapping his hands like a seal and as a result, his other colleagues started to pay attention, literally scanning him. “Blonde suits you so well!” His colleagues nodded their heads in agreement.

"You look so much younger, dear." Teacher Kim, one of the oldest teachers, agreed. 

Jimin, too embarrassed to answer, hummed softly in thanks, a sparkle in his eyes. With an awkward smile, the blonde one left for his first class. “I’ll get going.”

“See you later, Teacher Park!” Out of all his colleagues, Kim Taehyung was the only one Jimin was comfortable enough to have a conversation with. He had this childlike innocence that was hard to resist. He had such a bubbly outlook, perfect for an elementary teacher like him. 

Jimin was sure that Taehyung was used to his answers now, or the lack thereof. He used to sulk about it, but now he just smiled as Jimin nodded in acknowledgment. 

 ͓

There was a spring in his steps on his way to his advisory class, he was humming a song, excited to meet them. Unlike before, Jimin was assigned to 10th graders this year for the first time. He doubted there would be much of a difference. But even after all these years of teaching, Jimin had to admit that ice still ran in his veins when he thought of introducing himself to new people. Nevertheless, Jimin would enjoy this school year like any other. 

The first day of classes was an awful mixture of fun and despair. Old teachers met the new students and ran their old school lecture for the umpteenth time in their careers. 

Jimin introduced himself in a practiced manner. 

Introduction.

It was Jimin’s favorite part and the students’ most hated one. They probably did this at least seven times a day on the first day, and as much as he had wanted to spare them the torture, he wanted to get to know them too. What they had to do was easy, though the students would most probably disagree. They just needed to stand in front of the class and say their names, their ages, and what their biggest dreams in life were. There were teachers who would ask their students to showcase their talents—to dance or sing or show any talent they had in front.— His was a lot easier. 

Whilst Jimin understood the pressure of standing in front of everyone and being in the spotlight, as he was once a teenager himself, he needed them to know that it was impossible to stay hidden forever. They would have to face the real world, sooner or later. And it surely wouldn’t be as kind as the classroom environment.

Feeling bad for his students as some of their faces were as pale as paper, some avoiding his gaze, probably afraid to be called first, Jimin rose up from his chair. 

“Class,” he started with a voice as gentle as he could manage. “You don’t have to be nervous, okay? You just have to stand in front for a few moments and it’ll be over before you know it. Plus, no one will judge you here, and if they do, I’ll slap their butts.” Jimin finished, emphasizing each word with his nose scrunched up, swinging his hands as if to spank someone. As a result, the students giggled. The tension was lessened, his plan was a success. 

“Shall we start?”

“Yes, Teacher Park!” The students sang in a practiced rhythm. 

Hell- in the form of chaos- broke loose. There was a ruckus of whether to start from the back or front seats. Jimin was all ears to his students’ feud, laughing at how passionate they were about it, as if there was a price to be won. 

“The first row should go first since they’re the nearest to the front!” A student from the back stabbed his pointer finger in the air.

“It’s always the first row who goes first! It should be the back seats this time.” A front seater defended the league.

“That doesn’t make any sense!”

“It doesn’t matter who goes first. We’re all going to have our turns anyway.”

“No!”

“It’s the—”

Figuring out that it wouldn’t end anytime soon, and that he only had limited time, he made his students vote. In the end, the front seats got the most votes and the affected students broke into a whine simultaneously. Despite the protest, the first student stood up and did as asked. Jimin sat beside his table, this way he would see his students properly, both the seated ones and the ones standing in front.

The first student, a tall guy with curly black hair, was in front for a minute already but no words came out of his mouth, and he just stared at the floor. His hands were clasped in front of him, trembling visibly. If Jimin wasn’t wearing scent blockers, he could bet that the student reeked of anxiousness. 

Feeling terrible, he rose from his seat and tried to calm the student. He put his hands on the student’s shoulder and made eye contact.

“I know it’s hard for you and I understand, but you have to believe in yourself. You can do it, hm?” Jimin assured, and smiled when the student looked at him with perturbed eyes, nodding despite himself. Jimin went back to his place, asked his students to stay quiet and respectful before sitting back down. Urging him to speak up a small nod and smile.

“My—my name is Song... Haebom,” he started, gulping audibly, looking at Jimin before he continued. “I’m 16 and my dream is to become a veterinarian.” 

“That’s great. Thank you Haebom! You may take your seat.” 

Haebom’s lips curled upward as he let out a huge breath.

The introduction went on and on and after the third row, the tension was gone, most of the students introduced themselves with newfound confidence. The majority of them had similar dreams, such as becoming a teacher, doctor, pilot, or flight attendant. One had babbled about wanting to be successful, to become an owner of a company, buy her parents a house, and get them everything they wanted. She reminded Jimin of his younger self.

Jimin listened intently, genuinely wanting to get to know them. His goal was to memorize their names before this day ended. He took pride in his memorization skills.

The last student with tapered short hair around the back and sides, and a pale complexion, stood in front. He looked slightly older than the rest of the students, the teacher thought. He looked like one of those students that’d give you so much stress your hair would turn gray in a day. Typical bad boy student vibe, but Jimin believed he was more than that.

“I’m Choi Junseok,” he said unenthusiastically. “20,”—Jimin was right—“and my dream is to finish high school,” Junseok said it so loudly, so confidently and he so looked unbothered that it made everyone burst into fits of laughter, and no matter how badly Jimin tried to stop himself, he couldn’t. Junseok didn’t seem to mind and laughed along with everyone. It took a while before the laughter died down, students held on to their aching stomachs, some wiped their tears away, including Jimin. Some students hadn’t even stopped laughing yet, and Jimin let them be. 

As soon as the students were all done with their introductions, the bell rang, just in time. Jimin packed his things up to get ready for his next class. Time was really well spent, much better than how Jimin had expected. He enjoyed the classes, and spending time with his students was a delight. 

͓

Two weeks later, Jimin found out that Junseok had been a grade 10 student four times in a row. For some reason, he couldn’t seem to pass the 10th grade, always got in trouble with the teachers, failing his subjects. During the lunch break, the blonde teacher had asked Taehyung about him, since he had been working here longer than him.

“Teacher Kim,” Jimin called out to him, and Taehyung turned his head in an instant, always excited for any form of conversation with him. “Do you know anything about Choi Junseok? Grade 10 student, tall, buzz cut.” Jimin described, just in case.

Taehyung furrowed his brows, thinking. But before he could answer, someone else butted in.

“Ah, that bastard. I don’t know why he even bothers to study only to repeat every year.” Teacher Yoon tsked, annoyed. She sipped on her diet coke, long manicured nails clanking horribly around the tin can. 

“Maybe he’s going through something unfortunate?” 

“I knew I was doomed when I had him as my student last year. I almost cried out of stress.” 

Jimin scoffed, believing that the teacher was stretching the gum as far as it could go. 

“I’m not exaggerating. That kid is a pain in the ass. I can’t imagine how much of a burden he is for his parents.” She shook her head, rolled her eyes so hard Jimin was sure she saw a snippet of her own brain. “You better be careful teacher Park.”

“Thank you. But did anyone try to help him at least? Ask him what’s wrong? There must be a problem.” Jimin attested, reminded of what Junseok said. “I don’t think he’d keep coming to school even after failing four times if he really didn’t want to study.” 

My dream is to finish high school.

She paused, contemplating.

“Not sure.” Teacher Yoon shrugged. “I don’t think anyone has. He’s hopeless anyway.” 

“I don’t think so. Have more faith in him.” Jimin insisted.

More of his colleagues shared about how Junseok couldn’t seem to keep up, and after hearing how any teacher who encountered him had ended up bad-mouthing him, Jimin felt his heart sink to his stomach. He was never one to judge his students, he made sure he understood each of them, where they were coming from, or the reasons behind their behavior.

Jimin believed that the essence of being a teacher is showing kindness and compassion to students. He believed that it was a huge factor that changed the environment of schools and classrooms. He wanted to be as approachable as he could be to his students, he wanted them to confide in him. 

Nobody in this world could be kind to each other all the time, but Jimin wanted to try, and he wanted to be the person in his students’ life who could lend a hand whenever they needed it, or offer them a shoulder to cry on and prove acts of kindness didn't always have to be much.

That day, Jimin swore to himself that he would do everything he could to help Junseok in any way. Junseok would prove everyone wrong and graduate.

͓

It was the second day in a row that Jimin’s seatmate skipped class, and although it was nothing new, it still bothered him. 

Kyungchul often missed classes. Sometimes on Wednesdays or Fridays, usually on Mondays. Jimin had no idea why. For one, he was sure that Kyungchul wasn’t indolent. He was active in class, raising his hand during questionnaires because he always knew the answer. He even raised his hand when Jimin couldn’t answer the teacher’s question, saving him from embarrassing himself because he was dumb.

And during the days Kyungchul would not attend class, he would come running to Jimin’s house to ask him what he had missed or if they had any homework. Kyungchul would say that their houses weren’t far from each other, but the dirt on the alpha’s worn shoes showed that the road he took was longer and more unfamiliar than he implied. Despite not seeing him around, Jimin believed him.

While they caught up, they drank the strawberry juice and butter crackers Jimin’s mother usually prepared. 

The next day, the teacher would question Kyungchul about his absence and the alpha would say he was sick. Always different variations of the same old excuses. 

Fever.

Tummy ache.

I felt dizzy.

Toothache.

Jimin’s eight-year-old mind was unable to grasp the information. How could someone get sick that often? 

“Are you sick somewhere?” Jimin worried, frantically swatting at Kyungchul’s forehead first, then his cheek to check if he was burning up. He learned that from his mother.

The alpha shook his head lightly, careful not to shove Jimin’s hand from his cheek, head bowed down to hide the warmness on his cheek. 

“Did your parents send you to a doctor yet to check if you’re fine? You get sick too often. I don’t think that’s good.” Jimin pressed, frowning and troubled for his friend. 

Kyungchul looked up then, meeting the omega’s warm brown eyes, but no words left his mouth. Jimin sighed at the lack of an answer.

“You better promise not to get sick!” Jimin pouted, holding out his pinky finger.

“Promise.” Kyungchul chuckled, locking their pinkies together.

Kyungchul kept his promise. As they ascended to the 6th grade, he didn’t miss a class for more than a day each week, still better than thrice a week like before. Jimin noticed the alpha’s scrawny physique and fatigue, and was concerned. He had a lot of unanswered questions; why was he losing weight so rapidly? Was he starving himself? Maybe that would explain his constant tiredness. The concern was eating Jimin’s young brain but he didn’t utter a word. 

They spent most of their days on a routine. Jimin would share his cinnamon roll with Kyungchul, take note: cream cheese. His most favorite one, when Kyungchul was too stubborn and wouldn’t eat, but he’d still devour it as soon as it reached his mouth, making Jimin topple over in laughter. Sometimes Kyungchul would surprise Jimin with a cinnamon roll too.

They’d giggle when they'd get scolded for talking each other’s ears off and Jimin sulked when they were sent far apart from each other. Jimin at the front seat and Kyungchul in the last row. Their teacher went through such lengths to stop them. They’d go to the convenience store every day before going home to buy literally anything they liked, and that they could afford, and if it was too expensive and Kyungchul couldn’t get himself one, Jimin would share his with him. 

Eating ramen with Kyungchul while counting every vehicle that passed by through the glass doors was one of the happiest moments in Jimin’s childhood.

 

 

It took three years for Kyungchul to finally grow tired of his excuses. And the outcome? He dropped out of school.

He broke his promise.

For years, the alpha was his seatmate, his savior. He was the only one who understood Jimin, the only one who was patient enough to put up with Jimin’s attitude. Jimin wasn’t mean, he was just… difficult. 

Kyungchul defended him even for the most idiotic things. Like the one time how he got into a fight for choosing cats over dogs.

It was during recess in 5th grade. The boys were gathered like usual to eat their snacks, it was a daily thing. They giggled about everything under the sun. New toys, favorite TV shows, cartoons, new coloring materials, pencil cases; everything they could brag about. Jimin had no idea how they went from laughing about Sunwoo sucking on a pen cap when it exploded in his mouth to fighting over pets.

“You’re so weird. Who would choose cats over dogs anyway?” Marco chastised, all the other boys agreeing with him.

“Who would choose dogs over cats anyway?” Jimin mimicked, sticking his tongue out like the petulant child that he was. “Cats know how to clean up their mess, unlike dogs. They know how to groom themselves so they stay clean, unlike dogs. Dogs stink.” Jimin made a stinky face, covering his tiny nose with his stubby fingers.

Marco was furious. “My dog does that too! Maybe the dogs you knew of aren’t from here!”

“Accept your loss,” Jimin smirked.

“Just say you’re weird.”

“It’s called preference. I was simply answering your questions! Why get all mad at me now?” Jimin stomped his feet, furious.

“Boys are supposed to like dogs.”

“Maybe because he’s an omega.” 

“Nerry is an omega too, but he likes dogs,” Jun interjected.

Before Jimin could retaliate and make the stupid fight escalate, Kyungchul was there. He had gone to the bathroom for gods know what. He always did, never ate with them. Defended himself by saying things like ‘I’m not in the mood to eat’ or ‘it upsets my stomach’.

“Boys can like cats too. There’s no rule saying they can’t, is there?” Kyungchul explained calmly. 

An unsettling silence followed. Because there was no more room left to carry forward this invalid argument.

“That was what I was saying!” Jimin scoffed, indignant. The omega stuck his tongue out one last time before going back to their seats.

That memory was still fresh in his mind, not failing to make him laugh. Now that he was a bit older, he saw the stupidity of it all, but he supposed that was how kids were.

The smile was wiped off his face when he was brought back to reality. Kyungchul was doing so well. He rarely missed classes. So the alpha going missing for almost two weeks was the last straw. Deciding he had had enough, Jimin was in front of the alpha’s house. 

Jimin convinced himself that it was alright because the alpha went to his house often, but still he didn’t feel like it was alright. 

He wasn’t expecting to see Kyungchul with his mom outside their house, packing what seemed to be a bunch of dried fish. 

Jimin stared for a few moments, clutching at his backpack, unsure of what to do. He was supposed to know about this. Hell, he should have known about this situation. Wasn’t he Kyungchul’s best friend, after all? 

The house was barely standing, to make a statement. Pale yellowish walls that had fading colors, faster than the world was heating up, and a roof that guaranteed to fly away with the weakest storm, and it was so small that Jimin could take ten long strides and already cross the other end.

Jimin was skimming through the scenery. The pale-yellowish walls, bamboo poles to keep the entrance stable, unpaved land, and the frozen boy in front of it all. When he met the hard pair of eyes, they were welling up. 

Kyungchul stared back at him with eyes as big as saucers. But then an unknown aura washed over him, and hardened features grew tauter than ever. Kyungchul looked up, his brows squished together. Within seconds, he was painfully gripping Jimin’s arms. 

“Why are you here?” Kyungchul glared, looking over his shoulder to see his mom watching them before turning back to her work.

That was the thing. He never glared. He looked at Jimin like he was the only sweet thing to exist in the sea of grimaces.

“Why weren’t you at school?” Jimin asked, scared but stubborn.

“If that’s what you wanted to talk about, you can leave.” Kyungchul hissed before turning on his heels. 

“You promised me!” Jimin yelled in a hushed tone, not wanting to alarm the alpha’s mother.

“Promises mean nothing! They are all void, and I learned it the hard way.” Just like how his parents promised him that they’d do anything for him to finish school and get the job he wanted, and only for them to crush his dreams, force him to drop out of school to work. “If you can’t wrap your head around that by now, leave."

That was a stab to his pure heart. The promise had meant so much to him. But this wasn’t about him, so he didn’t dwell on it. 

“Okay. At least tell me why you’re missing,” Jimin muttered hopelessly, “or… when you’re coming back.” He tried hesitantly. Maybe he knew somewhere within him that he wasn’t going to have an answer, but he just wanted to be sure. 

The revving of vehicles was the only noise for a moment. The staring game seemed to be never-ending. Kyungchul’s angular jaw was locked in its place since the beginning, now his stark nose had begun to redden too. 

“I’m not coming back,” Kyungchul replied in a somber tone. “I’m not going to school anymore— I can’t — so don’t bother me anymore,” he said with a whimpering bite that was still convincing Jimin to press more, but the scent of rotten orchid was keeping him at bay.

Jimin was more upset by the fact that Kyungchul was not going to school than anything. Jimin could only see a way out of this misery, and it was for him to graduate and get certified. Those precious certification papers would open the gates to this material world, where people broke their sweat off everyday, and earned their personal worth, and Jimin wanted his friend to earn his rightful place in this unfair world. 

And for him not to live like this. 

But he couldn’t bring himself to explain all of that.

“Why? What? You—we still have a long way to go.” Jimin kept on trying.

“Can’t you see?” Kyungchul waved his arms around the house, exasperated. “We can’t even afford to eat thrice a day, let alone pay my school fees. I sell dried fish with my mom, repack coals for my uncle, and I even sell packed sugar on the wet market just so we can eat, just so I could go to school because I want to finish school. I want to so badly. I want to fulfill my promise to you. But what can I do?” the other boy ended his speech with a tired look on his face and glimmering eyes. 

Jimin was staring. Staring and catching up with the strength of the wave that had just hit him. 

“Maybe this is all I’m going to be. I have to give up. My family has rented a place inside the wet market. She—we’re gonna sell there. I need to help my family.” Kyungchul’s grip on Jimin’s arm failed him. He pressed the heels of his palms on his stinging eyes. 

Everything came crashing down.

His absence and best efforts to come up with poor excuses, starvation that brought his fatigue and even his weight loss. It all made sense now, Jimin was blindsided.

“W-why didn’t you tell me?” Jimin sniffled. The omega was momentarily frozen when Kyungchul dragged him behind a tree, pinning his back on it.

“I didn’t want to burden you.”

“I would’ve helped you!” Jimin’s family status wasn’t the best. They weren’t the richest, but they lived a comfortable life. “You should’ve told me, and I would’ve helped you, you ass!” Jimin punched the alpha’s chest weakly.

Kyungchul laughed albeit watery. “I know you want to, but you don’t have to.”

“Of course I do. I’m your best friend.” Jimin scolded with a whine, emphasizing the words to knock some sense into the alpha.

Kyungchul cradled his face, leaning their foreheads together. Jimin calmed down, inhaling the alpha’s floral orchid scent coming to life slowly. 

“Let me help,” Jimin paused, contemplating his next words before letting his eyes flutter close. “Please, alpha.” 

Kyungchul’s eyes widened.

“O-okay,” Kyungchul stuttered, so did his heart. “We’ll be fine,” he assured. 

He let Kyungchul press his lips on his forehead, but the complete impotence turned into tears flowing down their faces fleetingly. They forgot the worries that set fire around them with the trust that they would overcome anything and everything together.

͓

Today a new teacher was joining the faculty. One of their colleagues, Teacher Shin, was pregnant and on maternity leave. Since the school was relatively small, and even though many students were enrolled, there weren't enough teachers for each class from elementary to high school. The current teachers' load was full, hence why they decided to hire a new one. 

Jimin wasn’t really interested in newcomers, he never was. But because this new employee was all the younger teachers could talk about, Jimin couldn’t help but want to know. He didn’t mean to eavesdrop either, but they talked way too loudly to be discreet. As far as he knew, the teacher was an unmated alpha in his 30s, and apparently, he was also very good-looking, and that was why his unmated colleagues couldn’t stop gushing about him. 

They were all in the conference room where they usually greet visitors or newcomers, waiting for him to come. Everyone snickered around and talked about where they were going to eat for lunch. Taehyung grinned at him from across the room, Jimin smiled back. 

He wanted this to be over already so he could go to his students and finally be at peace which was ironic because with students, you could never really be completely peaceful, but still.

Impatiently, Jimin checked the time on his wrist watch only to see that the new teacher was five minutes late, and Jimin only grew more annoyed. If there was one thing Jimin loathed the most, it was waiting. Before he could roll his eyes to the stupefaction, the door opened.

The omega teachers and even some alphas gasped when they saw who entered the room. 

“Ah! I think my heart’s going to combust!” Barely containing her excitement, Teacher Hong yelped beside him. “Ugh, he smells of fresh fruits!” She sniffed obnoxiously to prove her point. 

Jimin wanted to disappear. How unfortunate of him to be seated beside these kids .

“Orange!” Teacher Hong and Teacher Nam beamed in unison.

“Do you think he’s single?” Teacher Nam, one of the unmated omegas, piped in, pressing her hands to her cheeks.

“He’s unmated, that says it all.” Teacher Hong claimed.

“Just because he’s unmated doesn’t mean he’s not seeing anyone.” Jimin deadpanned. He usually wouldn’t interfere, but he was vexed. How could these teachers talk as if the person they were talking about wasn’t a few feet away from them was beyond him. 

Thankfully they did shut up, muttering their half-assed apologies before sitting properly to gain what was left of their decency back. 

Only when Jimin looked forward did he notice a tall, natural brown haired man. He was dressed in a black tight fitting button-up and slacks, the black on black combo made him look slick and mature. Jimin tried not to stare at his arms, his annoyance long forgotten. Jimin had to hand it to him, he was handsome, but as soon as that thought entered his mind, he pushed it away. He was still battling his own demons and didn’t need or want a distraction, even if the distraction was an attractive, doe-eyed alpha.

They all rose from their seats to greet him, Jimin quite sluggishly, while his other colleagues squealed, not even trying to be subtle. The secondhand embarrassment Jimin felt was real. He was cringing so hard, he knew his colleagues were thinking he was such a killjoy. 

“Good morning,” the alpha bowed. “I’m Jeon Jeongguk, 32 years old and your new colleague. I hope we get along well. Please take care of me!” He chirped, his grin genuine. Everything about him screamed alpha, from the way he carried himself to his physique, his voice however was surprisingly soft. Deep but gentle. Not that it mattered anyway.

They clapped and the school director introduced them one by one to Jeongguk. The younger omegas were like hyenas fighting over food, wanting to be first in line. How annoying. 

Then, everything was over, or so he thought.

Just when Jimin was about to walk out and go to his first class, which he was already fifteen minutes late for, (so much for greeting a newcomer) he heard the school director call out to him. Jimin groaned internally, fixing his crumpled face with a blank expression before turning around.

“Yes, sir?” Jimin asked, curious as to what he needed from him. But when he saw Jeongguk looking in his direction, only then was he reminded that he was the high school representative. Therefore, Jeongguk was his responsibility. Jeongguk was assigned to high schoolers and he was in the same department—English—as Jimin. The director didn’t answer, just laughed at him. 

The epiphany must have been so clear in Jimin’s face that even Jeongguk was giggling. At least someone was enjoying the situation.

He looked at Jeongguk whose eyes were big with excitement. Jimin did not bother to smile, not because he was rude but because he didn’t have it in him to do so, and asked the alpha to follow him. On the way out, his colleagues stared at them and grinned at Jimin, as if sending him a message that Jimin refused to receive. 

As they walked to Jeongguk’s new office on the third floor, they didn’t talk. Jimin wanted to get this over with. Jeongguk seemed to understand, not saying anything either, just quietly walking behind Jimin. When they reached the room, Jimin introduced the alpha to the teachers in the department.

“This is Teacher Kwan. He’s the head of the English department.” He and Jeongguk shook hands, replying with a nice to meet you, sir .

“I look forward to working with you.” Teacher Kwan smiled. Jeongguk bowed and introduced himself to the next person.

“This is Teacher Hong.” 

“Nice to meet you, Teacher Jeon. If you need anything, I’m only two desks away!” She preened, shaking Jeongguk’s hand vehemently. Jeongguk smiled in return. 

“Thank you.”

They drew back their hands with a polite smile plastered on their faces, and then Jimin swiftly pointed him to his desk—Teacher Shin’s previous one.

“This will be your desk.” Jimin pointed to the one five feet across from his own desk. “Some of Teacher Shin’s stuff is still there, but she’s coming to get them this afternoon so you don’t have to worry about it. You can place your belongings under the table in the meantime.” He elaborated, barely maintaining eye contact with the alpha holding a small box with all his possessions.

“Okay, thank you.” The alpha nodded. Jimin turned his back just for the sake of not having to look at him. He didn’t feel comfortable around an alpha, or around anyone in that case.

“The school director handed you Teacher Shin’s workloads, right?” 

“Yes.” To Jimin’s delight, Jeongguk’s answers were exceptionally short. Just what he needed to hear. 

“Everything you need to know about your classes, the building numbers, and classroom numbers are on the sheet the director gave you.” Jeongguk looked down at the folder he had in between his armpit to check if it was still there, then bobbed his head. “Do you want me to give you a quick tour?”

Please say no. 

“No, I’ll be fine. Thank you.” Jeongguk replied good-naturedly.

Yes!

“Alright, then we’re done here. Enjoy your classes.” 

“See you later.” Jeongguk had that same smile plastered on his face, and Jimin was sort of taken aback. Who’d blame him, his expectation was set a little low. 

 

Teacher Shin went to the school to get all her stuff with her mate. They brought lunch for the whole faculty who were rich in gratitude by the end of it. 

Everyone was disheartened when they announced that she was going to quit her job for a long while because at first it had only been a leave that she discussed with the director. She was one of the oldest teachers in the school, along with Teacher Kim. Her pregnancy was very unexpected because she married late and she and her partner both knew it would be hard to conceive. 

When everyone found out she was pregnant and that the baby was healthy, they were delighted. She said she wanted to focus on her first child and she couldn’t do that if she was working. Jimin nodded, still not understanding quite much. 

Jimin never talked with Teacher Shin, never had any proper moments with her except during the morning when they’d silently drink their coffees, and while Jimin chewed on his cinnamon roll sometimes they would send each other small smiles. He didn’t know what to feel, but what he knew was that he was a little sad knowing Teacher Shin wouldn’t be coming back.

Teacher Shin joked around with their colleagues for a while, saying she’d miss them all. Jimin didn’t expect to be mentioned. He was spacing out, like always.

“Take care of each other!” 

Jimin nodded. He was aware that his colleagues were cheering for teacher Shin, and he wanted to do the same but he was too busy staring at her. She was in her second trimester, stomach round with an obvious baby bump. She looked so healthy, glowing with pregnancy, bearing another life inside her. She was basked in happiness, glowing, with her mate’s arms around her torso. 

Upon noticing, Teacher Shin went to Jimin when their colleagues had gone to eat lunch.

“Do you want to touch it?” She offered. Jimin had half a mind to refuse.

“Can I?” 

“Of course.”

She took Jimin’s hands in his and placed it on the bump.  

It was serendipitous; he could feel all the soft rumbles. 

“Oh my God! Did you feel that? The baby kicked!” Jimin nodded eagerly, not trusting his voice right now. The softest poke breached through the taut belly muscle, and Jimin teared up. 

Would a strand of muscle stretch if a pup kicked inside his belly too? 

Jimin’s chest tightened. He excused himself, lying about having to use the bathroom. Teacher Shin, although worried, let him go. Jimin hurried to the bathroom, head bowed down. 

Completely missing the way Jeongguk watched him in astonishment.

͓

 

Flames of orange seeped through the windows and escaped the curtains to bask the room in the warmth. A streak of light fell and divided his face with its shadow, illuminating his brown iris. 

Kyungchul's arm was wrapped tightly around Jimin's middle. He was drowsy, it didn't help that Kyungchul was caressing his belly in gentle motions, his cheek pressed on Jimin's nape.

Jimin loved being the small spoon.

They just finished all the things they had to do today. Jimin finished his paper that he had stressed over for weeks. If it weren't for Kyungchul, he most likely would've lost his mind.

Jimin didn't get how calm the alpha was even in situations like this. Kyungchul worked as a transporter of goods in the public market four hours a day, but Jimin never heard him complain about too much schoolwork or lacking time. Jimin's guilt ate at him. 

He had more time than Kyungchul and he was living a much more comfortable life but he complained as if the world was rioting. Perhaps, he was too ungrateful. The alpha even helped him with his schoolwork when it should be the other way around. When Jimin cried out of shame, the alpha hugged him and told him it was okay. People coped with their stress in different ways, and if this was Jimin's way, then that was fine. 

College was stressful. Stressful as in, sucked his soul dry. It was just like how everyone ranted about. The only difference was that now he could actually feel the stress and relate to it. They were both in their last year. Time passed like a tide. It felt like it was only yesterday when they were crying about Kyungchul dropping out of school, hopeless and heartbroken. 

But they made it. 

They made it because they had each other. Because they supported each other with proper understanding and without judgment. Even if Kyungchul hated to admit, he had helped Jimin in more ways than either of them could ever imagine. 

Jimin helped Kyungchul as much as he could, in his own little ways. He lent him money when they had to buy materials for projects, and although Jimin said he didn't have to repay him for it, the alpha insisted. Jimin agreed, it was the only way the alpha would let him help. Jimin made sure his lunch box was always full enough for two people, just in case Kyungchul wasn’t able to pack his, and although he sucked at it, he had learned how to save up money.

Besides that, there wasn’t much to stop them. There was hardly anything that could separate them.

Kyungchul's father had fallen sick just when they started their last year in high school. The money they earned from selling and from Kyungchul's work wasn't enough to help with his father's medication. The alpha liked to keep secrets, never telling Jimin his problems even if they were killing him inside. He had always kept Jimin in the dark, but Jimin would always eventually find out, one way or another.

Kyungchul burst into tears when Jimin handed him a few bills to buy his father's medicines. Jimin wasn't expecting the kiss that followed, Kyungchul thanking him when he pulled away. Both of their faces were tined a light crimson red.

Jimin was exceptionally bold that night, so he pulled Kyungchul into another kiss, more passionate this time. Kyungchul promised that he would be more transparent with his feelings and problems.

Their relationship had gradually evolved since then. Years had passed but they were still here. Holding on. Fighting and getting stronger each day. 

"Sleepy?"

“Tired, didn't get much sleep last night." He mumbled, half-awake.

Kyungchul laughed, pulling him closer. “You stress yourself way too much. Loosen up a bit.” He scolded, fond nonetheless. Jimin pouted. "Cute."

"'m not cute," Jimin whined, but he loved it, loved the attention, loved making his alpha laugh. Kyungchul left a soft peck on his pouty lips. “Thank you.” 

“Love you.”

Jimin hummed, happy.

"Pups are adorable, don't you think?" The alpha asked after a few silent moments, carding his hands through Jimin's brown locks. The question was random but he indulged him.

"They sure are." Jimin smiled, eyes still shut, giggling again when the alpha patted his belly.

 

"Have you ever thought of having one?" 

Jimin turned around, intrigued by the sudden question. 

"What's with this interrogation tonight, Mr. Kang?" Jimin wiggled his eyebrows at the alpha knowingly, both of them laughing. "But yes, of course. I would love to have pups." Jimin said with a grin, imagining a house full of their mini-mes waddling around.

Who wouldn't want pups?

Jimin's sister popped into his mind. 

Your sister doesn't want pups. And she doesn’t get looked down on. 

It had been a hot topic in their house lately, but he didn't dwell on it much. His sister would come around eventually.

"I want to have pups too… with you," Kyungchul whispered, his voice laced with honey, just enough for Jimin to hear. Jimin's eyes immediately welled up with emotions. He and Kyungchul never talked about this. He was surprised that the alpha thought this far into their relationship. He was ecstatic. Jimin buried his flushed face on the alpha's neck before Kyungchul could see. "You don't want to?" Kyungchul quipped, sensing Jimin's hesitance. "That's okay, but I meant what I said."  

“I do. I want to.” Jimin whined, flustered. It wasn't often that he got shy like this, it was the other way around. But the few times that he did, Kyungchul really got him good. His heart was about to beat out of his chest, he was certain Kyungchul could feel it against his chest.

"Then, I want a football team." Kyungchul snickered.

"Alpha!" Jimin laughed and in that moment, the world around them didn't exist, and all of their problems disappeared for a while.

͓

The sun was beginning to set, hiding behind enormous clouds. The vast dome looked like a painted canvas with a beautiful glow of pinks, purples and light blue tones that reminded Jimin of cotton candy. He was grateful that the faculty room was on the third floor and his office was by the window. He enjoyed the refreshing view so he often got lost in it. 

The school hallways were almost empty, and all that could be heard was the sound of the cool breeze flowing and falling leaves. Everyone had been dying to go home after a long day at campus, asses numb from sitting all day and eyes droopy from sleepiness— the students had run off to go home nearly two hours ago, as well as his colleagues. Everyone was excited to leave, except for Jimin. 

He was always the last to go home, left in the faculty with nothing but tables, chairs, and piles of papers to keep him company. His head glued to his students' exam papers, sometimes his lesson plan— anything to keep him preoccupied. The students who didn’t know his name referred to him as “the omega teacher who never goes home.” Quite an interesting title, although Jimin had to agree. Sometimes he wished that that really was the case. 

He did have to go home, unfortunately. But at least he got to go with Mrs. Gong—an old omega and public service staff from the campus who worked around closing time, and someone Jimin was more comfortable with than any other colleague—he liked to think that maybe she didn’t know about him, but it was impossible with the speed at which news traveled there. Or maybe she just didn’t care. Mrs. Gong made him feel like she genuinely wanted to get closer to him, and not solely because she pitied him. She treated him as if he was a normal omega.

Jimin stayed to pass the time. He wanted to be so tired that he'd fall asleep the moment his body hit the bed or it would be hard to fall asleep otherwise. He hated going home, if he could even call it that. It was just not the same anymore— it reminded him too much of his inadequacy. Some of his colleagues were worried at first, asking why he wasn’t going home on time or sometimes even offered help so he could get home faster. Jimin couldn’t tell whether it was pity or distress, but the latter was most likely shallower than anything else. Even so, Jimin would respond with a shake of the head and couple it with the friendliest, albeit tight, smile he could offer. After a few months, his colleagues got used to it and stopped asking, settling for patting him on the back, saying goodbye to him only with the word “bye” which was a bit relieving. 

“Not going home yet, Teacher Park?” Jimin frowned, confused. It had been a while since someone asked him that.

Ah, the new teacher. 

Jimin almost forgot that he existed, he hadn't seen him the past couple of days. 

See, this was why Jimin was not fond of new teachers, because then he’d have to repeat his words an unnecessary amount of times. It was nice while it lasted.

“No.” Jimin answered curtly, going back to checking his students’ quiz papers. 

“You sure? It’s a bit... late.” 

“Yes, Teacher Jeon,” Jimin said firmly. “You can go ahead.”

“Okay, get home safe.” 

Jeongguk took small steps here and there to linger around for some more time, and then finally exited after a while. 

 

Jimin got up from his chair when he noticed that it was almost six o'clock in the evening. He still had a few minutes to pack before the campus closed, so he started tidying up his cluttered desk and put all the exam papers he needed to check inside his favorite—and extremely useful—canvas bag. He made a point to not forget his lesson plan like last week, when he had gotten in trouble with the school director. The school director was doing his weekly checkups with the teachers, and Jimin was the only one who hadn’t handed in his. 

When he was done tidying and packing up, Jimin rushed downstairs, smiling at the thought of seeing Mrs. Gong again after a long day. He was always happy to see her, it wasn’t often that he could since the elderly omega had a lot of things she had to do but she made time for Jimin. She reminded Jimin of his mother, whom he hadn’t seen in forever. Not since he stopped talking to her and, well, everyone else. 

When he saw Mrs. Gong, he greeted her with a joke. “Aigoo, ahjumma, you should stop overworking yourself! I heard it ages you easily.” He teased, but in reality, he was worried about her.

Mrs. Gong squealed in shock and Jimin snickered, covering his mouth with his small fist. She stopped sweeping the already clean floor and turned around very slowly with her hands on her back. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and smiled at Jimin with her teeth full-on display. 

“Stop scaring me, kid!” Mrs. Gong had her blue working apron on. Her grayish hair defined all the years she had to carry on her back, but the way she smiled at Jimin illuminated her face, making her look so much more youthful and energetic.

She was an omega near her 60s, living on the outskirts of Seoul. Jimin thought she was too old to work but he didn’t tell her that. Apparently, she still had two children to help complete their education, and while her oldest daughter was already a licensed dentist earning enough, and was determined to get her mother to stop working, Mrs. Gong wouldn’t listen, saying she felt like she would go crazy doing nothing. She claimed that she would much rather scrub the bathroom floor on campus than sit idle at home. 

Jimin supposed it comes with age, his mother always said the same thing. Jimin winced at the bitterness of the memories.

Mrs. Gong placed the broom back on the holder and wiped the dust from her hands on her already dirty pants. “I don't think you are one to tell me if you stay on campus way past your working hours, Teacher Park .” She teased back, but Jimin saw the underlying worry. 

Jimin tried to whine his way out of the upcoming lecture, “Ahjumma, you know how it is.” 

The frown on her face told him it wouldn’t work, not this time.

“I told you not to waste your time with a crone like me.” Mrs. Gong scolded, pointing a finger at Jimin disapprovingly, obvious concern in her tone. “You should go home with the other teachers— people your age. Make friends. Spend time with them.”

Jimin knew she was right. It had been quite a while since he moved to this campus to teach and he still hadn’t managed to form any relationships beyond just acquaintances. Jimin honestly didn’t think he was ready for any kind of relationship right now, maybe he could try.

Still, Jimin clung to Mrs. Gong despite pushing him away and protesting not to approach her because she was all sweaty and smelly. He didn’t care, though, and clung to her left arm instead while rubbing his head on her like a needy cat. “I don’t need friends, ahjumma,” Jimin chuckled. “I got you, right?”

“But I won't be here always,” she said. Jimin could tell she knew more than she let on. She didn’t say anything about it though, but it didn’t surprise him. Pretty much everyone on campus knew about his sob story. 

“I know.”

Mrs. Gong stroked Jimin's shoulders in such a motherly and reassuring way that he chose to let it go for now. 

They started swaying with the light breeze while walking at a leisure pace.

“I heard there was a new teacher?” 

“Yes, same department.” 

“Is he handsome?” she was expressionless, but the glint in her eyes suggested something else.

“Ahjumma!”

“I’m kidding.” A roar of laughter escaped her mouth as she took in Jimin’s scandalized face. She leaned into the teacher’s ear and whispered. “...but is he?” 

Jimin cracked up at her bubbliness, throwing his head back in laughter.

“Let's go home so we can both rest. My back is aching.”

͓

As much as Jimin hated coming home, he still loved his house so much. It was the only evidence to remind him that the memories were real. 

Living alone was much more difficult than Jimin originally thought, mostly because he had never lived alone before. Not even when he was in college. Jimin took the bus every day even though it was a two-hour ride from his parents’ home, he would arrive almost at midnight, and he had to wake up while everyone was still drooling on their pillows. Jimin loved the company, knowing he had people to lean on and hold on to — also because he was craven, but that did not come from him — he wanted to always be with his family although he couldn’t tell if they ever felt the same way. 

But now he was alone. 

Jimin turned on the light and took in the view. The house felt unfamiliar to him. What was once warm and cozy was now lifeless and cold, the walls around him were so void. Not much had changed except the few pictures he hung on the wall, his brain nudged him to remove the wedding photo he still had. It was like everything had changed. Within a fraction of a moment, everything was gone, just like that. 

As if he hadn't dreamed of it while growing up, as if he hadn't put all his time and effort into making it work. As if he hadn't invested his love and time in hopes that it would last forever.

If only he was enough.

If only he was better.

Jimin tossed his shoes, too lazy to take a shower. He would do it tomorrow anyway. 

Whatever pain he felt was offset by fatigue, and yet sleep could fully consume him. 

͓

“How do you want our house to be?”

“As long as we can both fit in the house, that’s fine with me.”

Jimin’s heart melted. 

They were simple words, but powerful enough to bring the memories like a tide. Back then, Jimin would have had a hard time believing they would plan to buy a house together. Now the memories trance a bittersweet feeling in their minds .

“One bedroom,” Kyungchul added with a suggestive smirk.

Jimin burst into laughter. “Stop,” he buried his face in the crook of Kyungchul’s neck. 

They married right after college, so sure of each other. They took their sweet time exploring their worlds together, grew more, and learned different things about each other every day.

Jimin’s parents weren’t supportive of their relationship, they had never been. His parents said they were too young to marry, that Jimin shouldn’t marry a guy who was as poor as a rat and probably wouldn’t be able to provide for them, that Kyungchul was just using him. Jimin knew better than to listen to them. They knew nothing about their relationship. Jimin’s parents might have been at his wedding but they were just their saving face. Showing the world the illusion of them being supporting parents, when in reality they were the most unhappy about this union. His sister however was smiling at him from afar, eyes shining. 

It was a simple civil ceremony. A few of their colleagues and friends were invited to spectate their mating. Kyungchul’s mother hugged both of them, nuzzling both of their cheeks. It would’ve been a lot better if Kyungchul’s father was present, but they both knew he was watching over them from above with a smile etched on his face.

People had different perspectives on their relationship. Some advised Jimin to look out so he wouldn’t regret his decision, but he didn’t even bother to waste a second to bat an eyelash at those remarks. Nothing in the world could change the fact that their mating ceremony was the best day of his life. He was the happiest person that day.   

After two years of living in an apartment, they were able to save enough to buy a house of their own. It brought tears to Jimin’s eyes to have achieved another milestone with his mate. They had come so far.

“I want cats… and dogs.”

“You want dogs now?” Kyungchul laughed airily.

“People change,” Jimin grinned.

“Dogs can be good bodyguards to our future babies.”

“You mean, your football team?”

They both laughed. 

Jimin felt affection surge through him. It left him stunned, how his mate yearned to have pups so much. It made him feel wanted and loved.

“We...we can try, uhm, soon.” Jimin’s heart throbbed.

“I… we—you—” Kyungchul gulped. "A-are you—are you sure?” 

“Yes.”

It was a bright night. Jimin rested his elbows at the balcony railing and leaned forward to look at the night sky. No puffs of clouds were mindlessly roaming around; it was a clear infinite blue velvet sheet with shining glitters sprinkled around, stretching as far as he could see.

“See that star?” Kyungchul pointed at the brightest star near the moon. “I’ll go get that one and give it to you and our pups.” Kyungchul squeezed Jimin’s waist.

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

They moved into their new house a month later. It didn't take them the whole day because they didn't have much to move. Still, it was exhausting.

But as they laid down on their new king-sized bed, they felt nothing but the warmth of the sunset's sunlight spreading throughout their bodies.  

͓

Jimin was woken up by a loud ringing. Barely awake, he thought it was a fire alarm or something. It took him a moment to realize it was his phone.

It was a Sunday morning, his off day, and his only chance to sleep in but someone had the audacity to call this early. This was why he always put his phone in silent mode, he probably forgot to do it last night.

Grunting, Jimin reached for his phone on his bedside table and after what felt like an eternity he finally had it in his hands.

Calling…

Don’t Answer #1

Jimin scoffed, of course it had to be his sister. Who else would call at the crack of dawn? She probably hadn’t even slept yet. Jimin swiped ignored and proceeded to put his phone in silent mode and go back to sleep. But before he could, his phone was vibrating again.

“What?” Jimin snapped.

“How’s my baby brother?” 

“Stop it. I’m 34, for fuck’s sake.” Jimin scowled, rubbing the sleep off of his eyes.

“Ah, look at what age has done to you. You’re grumpier than ever.”

“You’re a year older than me,” Jimin said matter of factly. “Bye.”

“Don’t! Wait.”

“Why are you calling so early in the day anyway? Some people actually sleep, you know?” He berated.

Bongcha cackled before the line went quiet, her breathing being the only sound. “I just missed you.”

Her sister sounded so earnest that there was a sudden lump in his throat from holding his breath.

“Come home." She pleaded softly. "It’s mom’s birthday on Wednesday.”

Jimin snorted. “Since when do you give a fuck about them?" 

“Jimin,"  She growled. “Stop being so stubborn. They miss you… just come home.”

“Yeah? I don’t think so. They made it clear enough that they don’t want to do anything with me. Why would they miss an omega like me?” Jimin laughed, humorless. 

Bongcha fell silent. She was the chattiest person Jimin knew, yet she kept her mouth shut when it came to Jimin and their family. 

The suffocating silence was choking him so hard that he couldn’t stop the tears that burned his eyes.

“Don’t call me again, please.” 

With that, he hung up, throwing his phone away. He dived back into his duvet, staring at the ceiling.

Jimin couldn’t remember the last time he went home. Three years ago? Maybe four? It had been so long that he had started to forget the familiar paths that led to his home. 

He had changed his phone number several times to avoid receiving calls like this, but for some reason, Bongcha always got his new number, so he had given up and resorted to ignoring her calls. He could easily block her number, but he didn't have the heart to do that. Jimin missed her, longed for her sister more than he would like to admit. Deep inside him, he was waiting for texts and calls from his family.

Jimin wished he could be like his sister. He was jealous of her, it was a painful reminder of what he could never be, and he couldn’t afford to deal with the pain anytime soon. He wished he could be free like she was. Jimin wished their family didn’t treat him like a caged bird and then go and give his sister the liberty to make choices for herself. Perhaps that would've made everything a lot easier. Perhaps, things wouldn't be what they were right now. 

As for his parents, they had hurt Jimin tremendously. 

When Jimin needed them the most, they weren't by his side. They were supposed to be, right? Parents always support their children, even with their small acts. It never had to be grand actions all the time. Because parents always were supposed to have their children's back all the time. 

Instead of being his supporters, his parents were the heels that crushed him to the ground. 

͓

The new alpha teacher was more efficient than Jimin had assumed him to be. As expected, he was assigned to monitor him and make sure he was following the school protocols and doing his job. Jimin had plenty of these moments, so he didn’t expect much from him, but he was surprised when every task that Jimin asked him to do he’d finish only in a matter of hours, each time without fail. 

Jimin admittedly liked to make newcomers suffer, it was a common thing for the juniors to get the most work, get the most pressure. The omega used to feel bad about it, but it only took an ample amount of time before his conscience left him. Everyone in the faculty would thrive every time there was a new employee. Jimin had experienced it too.

He made Jeongguk do stuff that he didn’t have to do, and even had the alpha running from the fourth floor to the first in minutes or running around the same two floors, handing out papers, getting papers signed, handing out schedules and news, all during his breaks. To Jimin's surprise, the brown haired alpha never complained. Jeongguk would bow down to show respect after accepting his work before running off to wherever he needed to go. If it was any other alpha, they would’ve growled at an omega ordering them around, but Jeongguk didn’t.

One time Jeongguk made the mistake of printing out the wrong materials and shredded the correct ones. Jeongguk had explained that he must’ve heard incorrectly and apologized several times but Jimin wasn’t having it.

“You can’t even do this right Teacher Jeon! You had one job and that was to print out the educational materials I gave you.” Jimin wiped his face in frustration. “What am I gonna do now? I need those papers by this afternoon!”

“I’m sorry Teacher Park. It w-won’t happen again, I’ll do better at my job next time.” Jeongguk apologized for the umpteenth time, head bowed down in shame. If Jimin was being honest, he thought the alpha was going to cry. “I’ll handle this- let me- I’ll fix it.”

Jimin heaved a sigh before stomping out of the room.

And as Jeongguk had promised, he handed Jimin the papers by the afternoon.

Jeongguk was good at whatever he did and Jimin was very aware of that but he just liked to give him a hard time. The thing was, the alpha didn’t even budge. Jimin had the feeling that Jeongguk was trying to impress him as his senior and even if Jimin was indeed impressed, he wouldn't say it. He wouldn’t hand him that kind of pleasure just yet.

͓

"Teacher Park, are you coming?" Taehyung, who was peeking at the faculty door, asked. 

Today was Teacher Shin's baby shower. The entire faculty was invited, it was a pretty huge celebration so everyone was excited. The faculty members were logging out an hour earlier for it.

Jimin had thought about this the past week when he had received the invitation from Teacher Shin. He wanted to consider it, go out and have some fun. He wanted to breathe better, but he was suffocated when left alone with his thoughts. 

But then he himself couldn’t enjoy parenthood, wouldn’t being in the room full of people celebrating someone else’s pregnancy be just as suffocating?

"No. I have plans today. It's my mom's birthday." Jimin lied, he was getting so good at this. "I'll let Teacher Shin know myself."

He couldn't remember the last time he had gone out with his friends or anyone. At this age, when everyone was settling down and starting their families, it was hard to avoid the question: "When are you planning to start a family?" 

Jimin wished he had an answer for them but he didn’t want to tell them the truth, afraid of getting the same sad, pitiful looks, disappointment, or sneers.

He felt bad for ignoring their messages inviting him to their weddings, baby showers, their pups' birthday parties', wedding anniversaries, lying to them, making up a million reasons as excuses for not being able to go. 

But watching almost all his omega friends pregnant was like drinking poison. Some omegas were with their first pups, some with their third, second, some with their fifth pups.

Being a loner in the mass of happiness, celebrating every day other omega’s joy was a hard thing to watch. Everyone around him was busy with the building blocks of their lives, family, children, and all. And there he was struggling to pick himself up from the bottom line of misery.

Was it selfish of him to not be happy for someone else’s happiness?

Taehyung deflated at the news while the rest of the teachers didn't really react. They were used to Jimin avoiding social interaction with everyone he faced. 

"How about you, Teacher Jeon?" 

"I'll pass, sorry." Jeongguk apologized abashedly. "I need to finish some paperwork." 

"Hey, come on! This happens once in a blue moon. You can't let this pass." Teacher Hong convinced, using his overly sweet voice, Jimin wanted to throw up. 

"I wish I could, but I'll have to pass for now. I'll make it up to you guys next time." Jeongguk winked at everyone, making them laugh. 

After everyone had gone out, it was just Jimin and Jeongguk alone.

Jeongguk had been here for a few weeks and despite being in the same office, meeting five, sometimes six times a week and literally sitting across from each other, they didn't really talk much, and it was obviously on Jimin. The alpha didn't push it either, which Jimin was grateful for, but he would often feel Jeongguk's eyes on him. It made him squirm. 

He thought he was just overreacting when he had first felt a pair of eyes following his smallest movements. But then he looked up and immediately found the culprit. 

Jeongguk. 

Jimin recalled how awkward it had been, especially for Jeongguk who looked like he wanted to jump off a clip. 

"What's the problem?"  Jimin had asked, thinking Jeongguk needed something, but the alpha just barked out a quick laugh and let out an awkward "hi, how are you?" before going back to whatever he was doing.

If Jimin noticed the rosiness on Jeongguk's cheeks, he didn't say anything.

After the many times he had been caught staring, Jeongguk tried to be as subtle as possible. But he wasn't as slick as he thought. Jimin wasn't sure if his co-worker had a habit of staring into people's faces or what his problem was. 

Today wasn't any different. He could feel the alpha's eyes on his face again. He couldn’t be wrong about it being Jeongguk because it was just the two of them. 

"What? Staring again?" Jimin said unenthusiastically without even glancing up. 

"No! I—you- I'm—" Jeongguk struggled to find a plausible excuse for being caught staring for the umpteenth time. 

Jimin could laugh at how flustered he was. He didn't expect an alpha to be so shy. 

"Then stop staring at me. It's distracting."

"Sorry."

Jimin proceeded to type away on his laptop, encoding his students' exam scores. He was surprised but happy to see Junseok get a good mark. 

The poor child had a breakdown last week in the classroom. After class, he saw Junseok still loitering around and sensing that his mood was a bit gloomy, Jimin had been all ears for him when he said he wanted to drop out. Junseok said he felt dumb, that he was ten times more stupid than everyone else. Jimin was heartbroken, mainly because he didn't know how to show Junseok all the potential he could see as his teacher. He considered himself at fault for letting Junseok feel inferior to others. 

He had let him cry, and after that, Jimin had encouraged him and made sure Junseok knew that he wasn't anything of what he had just said. 

Jimin was happy to see him trying so hard, and felt like a proud parent.

"You smiled."

What an unexpected remark. Totally caught him off-guard.

Jimin clicked his tongue. "I told you to stop staring." 

"I-" Jeongguk blurted. "Sorry."

Unlike other alphas who tried to intimidate most omegas they encounter, Jeongguk was there, taking a big shape of cuteness in all of his glory. It was the first time in forever where Jimin hadn’t felt the need to square up in the presence of another alpha. 

"Didn't you say you have somewhere to go?" Jeongguk questioned, eyes wide with curiosity.

"It’s none of your business." 

A long pregnant silence. Then Jeongguk burst into soft giggles. 

"Me too," he chortled. Jimin didn’t have to say it out loud, Jeongguk had already read him successfully. 

Jimin rolled his eyes.

͓

 

Their relationship wasn’t supposed to stay all lovey-dovey, and Jimin thought he was geared up for the bumps in the road. 

As expected, the bickering started to turn into small fights the more time they spent together. Kyungchul started skipping laundry or not washing dishes, but somehow those small actions started to matter more to Jimin than they should.

“You’re supposed to help me with the housework. We agreed on it, didn’t we?”

“Sorry, I just forgot. I was… tired.” The week-long bags under his eyes were strong evidence to support his worn-out look. 

“Tired?” Jimin was incredulous. “What did you even do? Lie on your back the whole day? I work my ass off every day just so we could pay the bills because you couldn’t keep your work or even bother to find one. It’s the least you could do for me.”

Jimin had enough. Kyungchul couldn’t just keep using his ‘I don’t get along with my colleagues, the work is too pressuring’ card, not when he had always been more sociable than Jimin. He wanted to know what had changed in the shortest span of time. He wanted to understand and help, but he couldn’t keep doing everything all alone.

"I'm sorry, okay? I'm trying. I'm going to find a job soon." Kyungchul wrapped his arms around him, but Jimin slapped them away.

"You always say that. It's been months . What are you planning to do?" This was not something Jimin would like to come home to after his long tiring day. 

Jimin didn't wait for an answer and turned on his heel to let some steam off but his mate wound his arms around him tightly, rendering him immobile.

"I'm sorry," Kyungchul sniffled. "Please don't be upset."

The emotions Kyungchul bottled up were because his mother’s health had begun to deteriorate horribly, which made him more sensitive to other people’s behavior and emotions. It didn’t cross his mind that communication could help wonders, and Jimin would be all ears. No, he kept Jimin in the dark and let misunderstandings unknowingly destroy them.

Kyungchul rarely broke down, the alpha had always been the strongest pillar. So when he crumbled down, Jimin was left baffled. 

His mate nuzzled his neck, seeking comfort. All the tension in Jimin's body left, eager to appease his alpha. He turned around and pulled Kyungchul into a hug. 

"I'm sorry, alpha. I was too harsh." Jimin muttered, eyes brimming with tears. He felt guilty for the things he didn’t mean to say, but control had slipped from his grip at the wrong time, and he spoke mindlessly hurting Kyungchul's feelings more than making a point.

"It's okay, you were right," Kyungchul assured, playing with the hair on Jimin's nape. 

"But still—"

"I love you." Kyungchul pressed a soft kiss on his temple, and Jimin crumbled into the sweet facade.

͓

Jeongguk often gave Jimin a helping hand with some work, but it would end with them arguing because of Jimin’s stubbornness, and it irked him that Jeongguk was calm as fuck

Like when Jimin was carrying and handing out new books to the lower grades. Jimin had refused Jungkook's offer to help, saying he could do it, and that just because he was an omega didn’t mean he was weak.

“I said I don't need your help, I can do this alone.” Jimin had snapped, veins about to pop trying to carry ten thick books at the same time. He needed to get this done faster.

Then accept the help Jeongguk was offering, dumbass.

No!

“I know you’re strong, and I never said you weren’t. I was just offering help to make things faster.” Jeongguk had explained as calm as ever. Jimin rolled his eyes and proudly took a step forward to carry on with his task but not even three steps in, the books started falling off. Jeongguk tried to suppress a laugh but failed.

“Will you help me or will you just laugh?” Jimin glared, the books slowly but surely falling off his grip.

Jimin could deny it all he wanted, but his eyes were fixated on the way the alpha's bicep would flex when carrying the heavy weight of the books. Jimin found himself dumbfounded at the way the buttons of Jeongguk’s dress shirt almost popped out from covering all that toned chest.

Fuck his stupid, thirsty omega.

Jimin eventually cut him some slack after the "training period" since Jeongguk had proven himself worthy of his job. However, he still sought Jimin’s approval like a puppy wanting to be petted after catching the ball its owner had thrown. Jimin had learned to give it to him, and as time passed by, he had gotten more comfortable with his presence, whereas before it irked him and made his blood boil.

͓

Jimin was carrying two flat lidded clear round jars with rolled papers in them, along with his canvas bag and a bunch of folders. The first jar contained rolled papers with questions in them that Jimin personally wrote, and the other one had papers with the names of his students for the random picking. It was an activity for his class to practice speaking in front of the class to build their confidence and impromptu English speaking skills. 

Jimin was excited to see how his students would do. 

He hadn't even managed to sit when a booming voice echoed in the room.

"Good morning, Teacher Park!" 

The alpha seemed to be in a good mood, like usual. He always looked so cheerful, it was hard to guess if he even had any problems to deal with in his life. 

Jimin had made a habit of coming to school a bit earlier than the others to avoid encounters like this, but apparently Jeongguk was earlier than him. 

"Morning..." he replied lifelessly.

"Do you need help with that?" Jeongguk gestured to his loads of belongings that Jimin was obviously having a hard time carrying.

"No, thank you." Jeongguk nodded and went back to his seat.

Jeongguk reminded him of Taehyung, good at heart and easy to talk to, which came as a surprise to Jimin. It had taken so little time for him to get comfortable around the alpha. But Jimin wouldn’t tell him about that yet, or ever for that matter.

Now that he still had 30 minutes before his first class, Jimin lined up his cinnamon roll with his other arranged stuff, and began eating while peacefully sitting and enjoying the white puffs of clouds mindlessly floating around the stark blue morning sky.

 

Like Jimin had foreseen ten minutes into the future, everyone broke into whines and complaints upon the announcement for the impromptu speech. 

"I can't speak English that well yet." Most of his students argued

"Well, that's the purpose of this activity. You can practice, and you'll have to learn. I know you all can .”

" Teacher Park ." His students whined simultaneously. One of them went as far as to slide down his chair to show how opposed he was that Jimin almost laughed. Jimin feigned anger and frowned. 

"I told you about this yesterday. I asked you to be prepared, didn't I?" Jimin asked rhetorically. He opened the lids of the jars just so he could hear his students' cries. It was fun to tease them.

"What?" Jimin laughed. 

Junseok raised his hand and stood up when Jimin nodded. "I have—" 

"In English—" Jimin instructed softly.

"Thank you." Junseok quickly replied instead and immediately sat back down. The class burst into laughter.

"What is it? You have to try." Jimin encouraged. 

Sometimes his shyness was mistaken as arrogance but Jimin knew better.

"I have… question."

 "What's your question?" 

"Is… ask— questions… 'ard?" Jimin couldn’t hold back from flashing a proud smile. 

"No, they're easy. Even kindergartens can answer them." Jimin assured, and the class sighed in relief.

Teenagers were overdramatic.

Jimin dramatically dipped his hand and rolled it around the papers, making the tension high in the room, and then he dragged out a piece of paper at a painfully slow pace, just to rile up his audience more. Then he took his sweet time to unfold the paper, already drawing loud sighs. 

"Go Soo Yeong," Jimin announced.

Soo Yeong, one of his best students was first to go. 

"What is your biggest achievement?" She read the question on the paper fluently.

"Winning first place in the National Feature Writing contest last year. I worked hard on it, and I loved what I was doing, so I was really happy when I won first place." She answered it without stuttering. Soo Yeong was a good speaker. As expected from her.

The whole class clapped for her, amazed. She bowed quickly before returning to her seat.

"What is your favorite childhood memory?" Donghyun lived in the US for a long time so he was more comfortable talking in English than in Korean.

"So… I don’t really remember but my mom told me that,” Donghyun started, eyes roaming around the room while he tried to suppress laughter. “When I was a baby I caught a really bad cold. My parents were worried sick because I couldn’t blow shi-”

“Language Mr. Lee!”

“I couldn’t blow my nose and I might've even died from it.” He took a deep breath. “So my dad, as the knight in shining armor that he was, took the matters in his hands and supped the runny slime out of my nose.” Donghyun finished with a grimace, before bursting into a contagious fit of laughter.

After ages of laughter, everyone calmed down. Jimin’s eyes had teared up so hard that they were burning.

These were the moments that Jimin lived for. Little moments where he could laugh along with his students and forget everything even if for a little while.

“The last speaker for today is Junseok. We’ll continue the rest tomorrow. We ran out of time.”

Junseok was in front in a flash, he seemed confident and eager to talk in front, a great change since before, his eyes would water up and his body would shake. Jimin was loving the growth.

“If you… ‘ad o-one-eu wis’—wish...what would it be and w..why?” he was lagging at first, testing the foreign words on his tongue. “If you had one wish, what would it be and why?” he repeated with better pronunciation and more confidence.

The student's brows were furrowed in concentration, as if racking his brain for an answer that would blow everyone's mind.

"I want rich," he huffed. "Buy house. Buy new phone. Thank you." 

Despite his simple answer, Jimin clapped for Junseok and praised him. He needed to remind the boy that Jimin appreciated even his tiniest efforts. 

“What about you, teacher Park? If you had one wish, what would it be?” 

Jimin was a little bit taken aback by the question. It wasn’t often that his students would have the courage to ask him these questions, but he didn’t think it was rude or anything. It was normal for students to be curious.

What was his wish? He had a lot. He wanted to travel the whole world, own a sports car, have the ability to fly, be invisible for a day, operate a time machine. Jimin had an endless list of wishes. 

But the biggest one? Could he say it?

Jimin swallowed, throat dry. He wasn’t sure if he should tell them now, if it was okay to tell them. He didn’t want their pity or to kill the jolly aura, but he wanted to be as honest as he could, not only with his students but also with himself. 

And despite Jimin not wanting them—or everyone—to find out, eventually they would. Perhaps, saying it out loud would make him feel somewhat better, even though it never did. 

With stinging eyes, Jimin said it with the most composed voice he could manage, albeit shaky and small. It’s like he never had any strength to keep himself going whenever he had to deal with this topic.

“A baby… I… I want a baby.” 

That really was and would forever stay as just a wish. It turned into reality only in a dream that could never exist. His mind was always reaching for something so far away, never being able to become real. Something he yearned and hoped for but could never be.

He saw it all coming. Everyone had gone silent, speechless. They were all looking at him like they wanted to rush and comfort him with a hug. 

They pitied him, and Jimin hated that they did. 

Jimin give them a half-hearted smile before walking out of the classroom, hoping they knew it was okay.

He was okay.

͓

Jimin and Kyungchul had been trying to conceive for a year now with no luck. They didn’t get the results that they yearned for, but despite that, they didn't give up. Some couples took a year or two to get pregnant, and they thought that perhaps in the second year of trying, they would make it through.

After two years of facing nothing but failures, they decided to seek professional help. They should've done it sooner, but their hopes grounded them with the strongest chains of love and despair. 

Still nothing happened, and they had to break free from their hopes.

Jimin had missed a few heats ever since he presented. Some time after he had his first heat, he missed only a few months, and when he had told his parents they had said it was normal—that Jimin’s mother herself had experienced it but never had had a problem. But then months turned to a year’s worth of Jimin missing his heat, however he paid no mind to it because as his parents had said, it was normal. He had forgotten about it as he grew older, and eventually  his heat cycle became normal. He didn’t know that it would affect him this badly in the present though. 

Their lifestyles changed in the shortest span of time. Firstly, Jimin threw himself into a world of dedication for his family by changing his diet. His new diet consisted of nutrients and healthy foods, followed by exercise routines that drained him by the end of the day, and he completely banished bad habits from his life as well, such as drinking or even being near smokers. As much as he hated them, he had also been taking medications that could help with his sometimes delayed heats. Kyungchul, however, excused himself for a few occasional drinks.

By the time they had familiarized themselves with sex, it had always been loving and enjoyable for both of them. But with time and these complications, they started tracking Jimin’s heat phase and became more cautious of their actions. So much that sex started feeling more like an obligatory duty than making love to each other.

Every time Jimin would get a single day of delay in his heat, they'd get their hopes up so high only for them to get crushed when he got it the next week or so.

Jimin didn't understand why this was happening to them. They were both healthy, no complications, no anything. They both strictly followed what their doctor had told them, trying to make up for what they were lacking. 

Trying each month frustrated him, he was so mad at the world for being cruel. Fate had always kept the best opportunities for those who didn’t want anything, but that very same fate had been abandoning Jimin who only yearned for a loving family.

"Baby?"

Jimin wiped his tears furiously when he heard his mate, hiding the evidence of his vulnerability.

"Y-yes?" he choked out, running a hand through his disheveled hair.

"Why is the door locked? Are you okay?"

Jimin got up from where he was crouched on the floor to open the door.

"What's wrong?" 

"Nothing," he replied, voice wavering. Kyungchul put his fingers on his chin and urged him to look up despite Jimin refusing to. He couldn't let his mate see him like this. 

"You can always tell me. Baby, I'm your mate, you can trust me." Kyungchul comforted, rubbing his back soothingly. Jimin knew he already had an idea why he was like this, but he wanted Jimin to admit it out loud for it had always helped him feel a bit better.

Before he could even get the words out, he was crying, falling into Kyungchul's arms. 

"W-what— what if the p-problem? Is- is it…me? What if I can't get pregnant? What if the problem was me all along?" Jimin sobbed. 

Three years. 

His body had given him hopes for three years. He had delayed heats, mood swings, loss of appetite, but they all went back to normal within the next few days.  

On two very special occasions, Jimin had even gotten pregnant. But the world was cruel indeed, and he had miscarriages both times. He wanted to find solace in the fact that his body was trying its hardest, but there was no light in the end.

"Don't say that," his mate tried to console him, but even Jimin knew that he was crumbling.

"But it's the truth!" Jimin screamed in frustration, his grip on his mate's shirt tight. "I'm the problem! It's me, it's me, it's me—"

"Shh," Kyungchul kissed the crown of his head, holding him impossibly close. "It's okay, it's not your fault." 

"It—is." Jimin cried. "You always wanted pups! I wanted to have pups with you too, and I can't even give you that. We can't even have that, and it's all because of me." 

They had countless dreams. The majority of them had involved plans of buying a crib, playpen, bibs, and playing together with their pups, building them a nursery, watching them grow and become their own person, that and so much more. 

"We'll keep trying, we won't give up. Even if you don't get pregnant, even if we can't have pups it'll be okay. All I need is you, okay? You're enough.." 

Jimin knew that whatever he was hearing was just to console each other. A sweet façade to mask the bitter truth for a few moments. But Jimin knew Kyungchul cared for him, at least. Jimin stayed silent, despite his inner turmoil. Kyungchul could downplay things all he wanted, but they both knew how much it mattered to him. Jimin knew how much Kyungchul wanted his own pups.

"Y-you won't leave m-me?" Jimin hiccupped, pulling away from Kyungchul's hold to look him in the eyes with his swollen ones. 

"No! Of course I won't." He gasped, disbelieving, visibly hurt. "Why would you even think that? I love you. I love you so much."

When he couldn't hold his mate's gaze, he pulled his alpha into a bone-crushing hug. He rested his head on his alpha's chest, listening to his heartbeat as fresh tears trekked down his cheeks. 

"I'm so sorry, so sorry. I'm-”

"Don't be sorry, my Jimin. I love you, always." 

"Promise?" Jimin sought, his voice muffled with his head still buried in Kyungchul's chest. 

"Promise."

͓

It wouldn’t be a normal day if Jimin didn’t have his cinnamon roll, occasionally Bravetart, some days Vanilla Bean Blog, but his all time favorite was Cream Cheese cinnamon roll. It reminded him of his childhood and the sore spot his mother left in the memories, which made it hard for him to swallow anything past the lump that forms in his throat.

Jimin only ate one a day during mornings because he didn’t want breakfast that was too heavy and he also never forgot to bring one, so to see one on his desk when he was already clutching one in his arm left him addled. He picked it up and saw that it was cream cheese. His baby . Perhaps he forgot to eat yesterday? Yesterday was a particularly busy day. He forcefully convinced himself that.

But then the next day, there was another one sitting cutely on his desk. Jimin glared at it as if it would follow his demands and answer something. 

It was only when he had taken a good look that he noticed it wasn't from the same pastry shop. There wasn't a Nyamnyam's Bake Shop written on the wrapper—where he usually bought them from.

Who the hell was leaving cinnamon rolls on his desk? It wasn’t that he was ungrateful, it was just...weird.

"Teacher Hong, do you have any idea who left this here?" Jimin asked, lifting up the pastry to her eye level. 

She bit her lip. "Uh… it’s…" Jimin raised his brows, anticipating. "It's Mr. Jeon. I saw him this morning."

"Good morning! It's such a lovely day, isn't it? The weather's so nice today." 

Speaking of the devil.

Jeongguk piped from behind with his dreamy voice, and held up his cheerful smile until his eyes landed on a frowning Jimin holding a cinnamon roll. He didn’t waste a second to pivot in a sharp U-turn and shrink back in his seat.

Jimin was never one to beat around the bush.

"Teacher Jeon, do you really go around leaving pastries on your co-workers' desks?" Jimin waved the pastry in the alpha’s eye level now. 

"It wasn't me," Jeongguk denied, round eyes everywhere but on the roll.

"Teacher Hong saw you," Jimin turned his gaze to the other teacher who threw a peace sign at Jeongguk. 

"Sorry," she laughed nervously. 

Jeongguk rubbed the back of his neck before answering, "it was me," with a pout .  

A child . He looked like a child caught red-handed. 

Jimin was staring down at Jeongguk with such weight that Jeongguk was forced to look up. But the sight was something Jimin could not have prepared himself for beforehand; Jeongguk stared back at him with such big and sparkly eyes that Jimin could swear a star was born every time he blinked.

The staring battle lasted for mere seconds before Jeongguk shyly backed down.

"Here," he extended his hand, giving Jeongguk the pastry back.

"No, I— you take it."

"I already have one." 

"It's yours! I already ate one." There was a frown on his face and he was talking with a pout. "I passed by a bake shop, and I know you enjoy them so I thought— I thought why not?" 

Jimin’s ears slowly hint at a shade of pink. 

"Take it." 

It almost sounded like a plea and Jeongguk looked like he was a few seconds from crying so Jimin nodded and retracted his hand, holding two cinnamon rolls on his chest. "Okay," he breathed. "I… uh… thanks."

Jeongguk beamed like a puppy who found a ball. 

Since then, he would find a cinnamon roll on his desk and a big-eyed alpha whose face was crimson across his desk pretending to type away on his laptop. Occasionally, the bread would be partnered with coffee which was perfect for a lazy morning. Jimin somehow felt guilty to label that as ‘perfect’ because he thought he shouldn’t be okay with it, but he was again stuck in a loop when he couldn’t find the heart to tell Jeongguk about it.  

He and Jeongguk would eat in silence, Jimin biting his lower lip to subdue a smile because the alpha was not subtle at all with his staring game. Jimin wondered if he knew.

"What made you want to be a teacher?" Jeongguk asked during one of their lazy mornings. 

Jimin looked up, the question was so random. He sipped on his coffee before answering, "I love the kids," then quickly averted his eyes, afraid Jeongguk could see through him, but then again, he probably knew already. 

The genuine curiosity sparking in the alpha’s eyes urged him to answer more than that. 

"W-what… you?" Jimin mustered the courage to ask, but not enough courage to stop him from squirming or averting his eyes. 

"I love the kids too, and I love standing in front of people, talking and all that stuff." 

Jimin snorted. He should’ve known by then; the way his entire demeanor changes to warm and confident when he was with children spoke volumes. He had observed Jeongguk a month ago when he was fairly new in the school. Jimin was seated in the back row, simply following orders from the head teachers to keep eyes on the newcomers and see their working capabilities. Needless to say, he was pleasantly surprised to see Jeongguk’s passion literally burning with his honey-like voice.  

"What?"

"I know," he said, hiding his smile over his coffee. Jeongguk seemed to understand what he meant, a faint blush on his cheeks. 

Jimin had to be skeptical at first because he wouldn’t tolerate a second of pity shown by Jeongguk. But with his whole expression, he could see honesty seeping through. Was reading his face even a real thing, or was Jimin’s mind making up any convincing scenarios to keep himself from hurting?

Greeting each other in the mornings became their routine, similar to the ones Jimin had with other colleagues. He was okay with the list he had imprinted in his mind all those years ago, but Jeongguk being a new addition was what he had to adapt to soon, and it wasn't bad at all up to now.

Helping each other out was their comfortable colleague relationship. Jimin would sometimes substitute for Jeongguk’s classes if he was busy with the tasks the director handed him, and the help would always go both ways.

After so long, Jimin was feeling pretty nice about all of it. Maybe he should’ve paid heed to Mrs. Gong long ago when she suggested for him to get along with others. Because now that he did, he didn’t regret it as much as he thought he would.  

Jimin found out that Jeongguk got into a little fight with one of the teachers in the Mathematics Department because of him, and Jimin knew in an instant what it was about and he was not happy about it.

“You shouldn’t have done that, Jeongguk.” Jimin chided. He dragged the alpha to their office, glad that no one was around except them.

“They were talking shit about you. Did you really expect me not to say a thing?” Jeongguk was incredulous.

“So let them talk! They won’t stop anyway. You’re just wasting your time with them.”

It was always those people who didn’t know shit about him who loved to talk as if they knew everything. Jimin was tired of them.

“They’re not stopping because you’re not doing anything. You’re letting them say and spread all this bullshit about you—”

“And that is none of your business Jeongguk! That is mine to worry about, not yours.”

 “I’m just worried about you. What they were saying— it was horrible, I couldn’t take it. I just want to help.”

“You think I don’t know? I do, I fucking do and I don’t care!” Lies, every word they said was a stab to his heart. “Just because you think we’re friends doesn’t mean you have the right to meddle in my business. I don't want your help. You are not as important to me as you think you are.”

Jeongguk looked like he had been stung, and Jimin wanted to take his words back, but he was stubborn, so he didn't.

Chapter Text

Out of all the days, Jimin’s stupid laptop could have acted out, it chose today. He was supposed to discuss using the PowerPoint that he pulled an all-nighter for, just for it to decide it wanted to be a bitch, and got deleted. 

Teacher Hong borrowed his USB earlier this day because she had forgotten hers, and Jimin lent it to her. But when she gave it back all of his files were gone, including the presentation. There was an undetected bug that got transferred from her computer, and eventually made itself at home in Jimin’s laptop and ate everything. She had apologized countless times, Jimin had forgiven her on the first round of apologies. 

Ugh, he worked so hard for it.

He was so close to pulling his hair out when Jeongguk said he could help. Jeongguk always helped him with his tech problems, but he didn't want to bother him, especially after their fight two days ago. Jimin nodded and murmured thanks to him before the alpha stood behind him and started clicking here and there, typing some high-level programming language. He did stuff Jimin couldn’t understand, technology just wasn’t for him.

“Done. It’s back, check your folders.” Jeongguk smiled, as genuine as ever.

Jimin almost cried when he saw it really was back.

“Thank you so much. You saved me today,” Jimin said timidly.

“Anytime.”

And just like that, they were okay again. Jimin did not apologize, he was stupid like that but Jeongguk acted as nothing happened. As kind as ever, and Jimin felt like absolute shit.



Jimin grabbed his toiletry pouch to head to the bathroom to wear his scent blockers—since they wear off after five hours— right after lunch and he wore them before the afternoon classes resumed. He had just stood up from his seat when ascent hit his nose so strong that he had almost doubled over.

A faint chill of Jasmine.

His eyes darted the room to check where it was coming from, chest heaving and landed on Teacher Hong’s desk. A bouquet of flowers.

He retched, holding onto his stomach.

These were the type of situations that compel him to wear scent blockers. He never wanted to be anywhere where he could scent some other unexpected smells, especially jasmine.

“Oh my gosh! Is everything alright Teacher Park?” Teacher Hong yelped and rushed to his side as he doubled over, rubbing his back soothingly. “Do y-you need anything?” 

Jimin shook his head but he retched again. “I need t-to go to the… bathroom,” he said weakly. 

A sudden perky orange scent hit his nose. “I’ll do it.” 

Teacher Hong agreed albeit worried and let Jeongguk drag Jimin to the bathroom.

 

Jimin could feel Jeongguk’s questioning gaze on him later that day like he was dying to ask but didn’t want to pry. He was careful towards his feelings, never bombarded him with questions, always cautious around Jimin. He wanted to ease the alpha’s mind, he deserved that at least.

“I don’t like flowers.”

͓

Jimin was never one for conflicts. He had taken important lessons from his past. But when it came to his students, he would never back down.

He was fuming. 

The omega found Junseok surrounded by his classmates who tried to comfort him. He was crying, crouched down on the floor with his face buried in his hands.

Jimin's heart broke at the sight, but he didn't get to dwell on it too much after he found out the reason. 

"Teacher Nam," his students had mumbled and he was out in a flash.

That was the reason he was stalking on his way to find the culprit. Jimin went to the faculty room where Teacher Nam would be, and when he couldn't find her anywhere, he went back to his office just for him to find her there. Jimin's blood boiled at the sight of her, his jaw clenching.

She shouldn't have tested Jimin's patience considering he didn't have any, but she really tried it.

"Teacher Nam," Jimin could drop the formality, but he didn't want to stoop that low.

"Yes, Park?" but she, apparently, didn't care much. She probably already knew why he was here.

"What did you do to Junseok?"

"Exactly what he deserved. I failed him." She replied smugly.

"What?!" Jimin almost shouted. He wanted to rip her face off even though he couldn’t believe that he was actually listening to this bullshit. "You can't- you can't just do that."

"He didn't want to do his speech, and that's a major requirement for this quarter." 

"You embarrassed him in front of the whole class. Did you expect him to willingly step forward and give a speech after what you did?"

Eyes from all over the faculty were looking at them with utmost judgment, but none of them could bring themselves to care enough. 

Teacher Nam was mummed, her nostrils were flaring and it was obvious that she was angry but Jimin didn't care so he continued.

"You shouldn't have done what you did. It wouldn't help him, at all. You know how he is but you chose to turn a blind eye."

Junseok was the oldest in the class by a couple of years, but his behavior suggested so much immaturity that Jimin’s heart broke. He would need a tender push to break through his shell and develop into his thoughts and emotion, but none of the teachers seem to comply with this to date. Jimin had tried to convince the teachers to be on their better behavior around Junseok, but it seemed like he was talking to fucking trees.  

"I don't care, I said what I said."

"What is this about even? Is it really just because of Junseok? Or is this your problem with me?"

Ever since Jimin started working here, Teacher Nam was one of the people who kept giving Jimin a hard time. Spreading lies and gossiping about him, talking behind his back, not attending her classes just so Jimin would have more workloads, just to spite him. Teacher Nam was the only willing one among everyone who loved to feed and gossip on others’ personal matters, and she did exactly that with Jimin as she talked about his infertility and failed marriage. 

Jimin didn't talk much to his colleagues— not until now, and that was on him but everyone was civil with him.

Except for this bitch. 

"What are you talking about?" She feigned innocence, and it made Jimin sick.

Jimin did a pretty good job ignoring everything, but this was too much.

"You hate me so much that I'm all you could talk about. Do you think I don't know all the bullshit you say behind my back? You think I'm that dumb?" Jimin ran a hand through his hair, feeling all his muscles tense. "Are you that bored, Teacher Nam?" He taunted, enjoying the deranged look on her.

"Shut up!" She sneered, baring her teeth.

"Is this your way of getting back at me? What did I even do to you?" Jimin cocked an eyebrow at her, totally at ease compared to before. He had the upper hand there.  

"Why do you care so much about your students, huh? Is it because you can't have your own pups so you treat them like your fucking kids? Isn't that why your alpha cheated on you and left you?" She scoffed, glaring daggers at Jimin. "Because what use is an omega who's infertile, right? Can't even give his alpha pups." She laughed, almost hysterically. 

Jimin was flabbergasted. He was aware that everyone knew, that was no new information. But he didn’t dare to say it out loud and for something that still hit a sore spot in him to be broadcasted without his permission brought him all kinds of shame, pain, and despair he knew, all over again.

"You know nothing!" Jimin growled. 

Red everywhere. Jimin was seeing red. He was baring his teeth before launching himself at her because he was in no way to let this go before a fight, but surprisingly a hard grip around his torso held his entire body from going forth.

The smirk on Nam's face was instantly replaced with fear. Jimin's omega preened in satisfaction.

"Jimin, stop!" 

He was able to recognize the voice as Jeongguk.

Jimin struggled in his hold. All he wanted was to listen to his omega and inflict pain. The same pain he was feeling. All the pain he had to go through by himself. He wanted to go haywire.

Other teachers were already gathering around them and talking senses into Teacher Nam so she could shut her fucking mouth.

"Let me go!"

"No. You don't want this!" Jeongguk’s grip on him was growing stronger by the time as Jimin became more desperate to hit something so near, going so wild as sinking his nails on Jeongguk’s forearm to stop him. "Jimin, calm down. Please." 

Just as he twisted on his waist to push him away, two large palms cradled his face and he halted immediately. He was held so gently, and Jeongguk was looking at him with such intense emotions that he could not move an inch. Sensing the lack of motion, Jeongguk carefully leaned in and rubbed their cheeks together, a gesture so intimate and reserved.

Once the anger left his body, he was void. He could not bear the emptiness, so he desperately tried to feel something again. He squeezed his eyes shut to focus, and then it hit him.

The pain. 

The way his bruise was ripped open again. 

"Get her out of here!" Jimin heard Jeongguk growl, but in his state, he wasn't sure if he was just hearing things.

But then he could feel everyone pouring out of the room, heavy footsteps slowly fading into a distance. It was just the two of them left afterward, breathing in the same pattern subconsciously. His body fell limp in Jeongguk's hold, falling forward, his face crashing on Jeongguk's chest. Jimin was shaking. 

It wasn't until he tasted a dash of salt on his tongue that he realized he was crying.  

"It's okay. Breathe for me." Jeongguk murmured, his hand caressing the hair feathering Jimin's nape, whispering reassurance against his ears. "It's okay, I’m here. Is there anything you need?"

I need you to stay away from me.

Jimin wanted to push him away. He wanted to tell him he didn't need this, that he didn't need him. He was strong, he didn't need anyone. But he felt safe with Jeongguk like he could let go and the alpha would not judge him.

Eventually, the images of the world settled around, and he began to feel the waves crashing his dam. The pain was stirring his emotions with such strength that he wanted to run away somewhere so far that even birds can’t get a hold of the part of him that he despised so much.

But that was physically impossible. Jeongguk’s impeccable strength kept his feet rooted to the ground that the tornadoes inside Jimin subdued with time. Maybe he could take his chance to get lost in those pairs of eyes containing the deepest ocean and convince himself that it would be okay to drown.

There was a high chance he would regret his actions as soon as the next day would roll and the sun would stare at him in the early morning, but maybe that was Jimin's problem. He could simply think about nothing but the serene quietness blanketing him.  

͓

Jimin had talked to his parents today, although he hated to admit that he dreaded it. 

But he was grateful that even despite not going with what they wanted, they still talked to him. Jimin hated a lot of things that his parents did and said, but he couldn't live without them.

Today they had asked how he was, how was his relationship with Kyungchul going even though he knew they cared nothing about his relationship let alone his mate.

"Are you pregnant yet?" is what they wanted to really ask but they couldn't, and Jimin had no idea if they didn't want to hurt his feelings or if they were tired of asking and getting the same answer. 

Jimin knew how much his parents yearned for a grandchild and how he was their only hope. And even though it pained him, he was aware it was the only reason they still talked to him.

His sister was fertile and perfectly capable of reproducing, but she refused to do so. She didn't want to be mated either, said being mated meant being tied down. Jimin understood her decision, but he couldn't help but feel bitter. Especially since they were so hard on Jimin about this matter.

Here Jimin was pulling all kinds of cards for a miracle to get pregnant, and there was his sister not using her privilege. He hated that his own family was taking one of his wishes for granted, even though none of her actions were meant towards him.

Despite all the sweet words being murmured by Kyungchul in the darkness, Jimin was finding it hard to feel any warmth from Kyungchul’s actions as each day passed by. 

It was okay, I only need you, I love you.

Kyungchul repeated over and over again like a mantra, but the truth in the words was only slipping away from Jimin’s grasp as each second passed by. 

The world could lie all it wanted, but Jimin knew it was his fault that Kyungchul was growing distant. Kyungchul was going somewhere so far away that maybe even Jimin begging him to stay wouldn’t change anything.  

Jimin tried his hardest to ignore the pain seeping through him whenever he saw Kyungchul's eyes looking at him from a cold strange distance whenever they fell on Jimin. 

He tried to ignore the way it made his stomach twist when Kyungchul would leave the shyest peck on his lips and call it a day before running away and staying as far as he could while being in the same house. Or how Kyungchul began to stay out late by using his work as an excuse. Jimin knew he hated staying in his work, and if he was ever put in a position where he’d have to work late, he would always tell Jimin.

Kyungchul stopped holding him in the night when he knew Jimin wouldn't be able to sleep.

His I love yous were becoming less frequent and emptier, and for someone like Kyungchul who had always been vocal, it bothered Jimin. He tried his hardest to clear the fog of doubt clouding his mind. He kept telling himself that nothing was wrong, that it was just him overreacting and making things more complicated than it seemed. 

Maybe it was just all in his head. He knew for a fact that all those pent up frustrations were to get the best of him sooner or later, and perhaps that was exactly what was happening. The only plausible guilt Jimin could find to blame was the frustration that was making him more vulnerable and insecure.

Jimin knew Kyungchul was tired and that no matter how he tried to hide it, he could sense that his mate wanted to give up. They had been trying for 4 years now but still nothing. None of the procedures, diets, vitamins seemed to work. Even Jimin himself was losing hope, he was tired of hoping but that didn’t mean he would give up.

“Kyungchul, can we talk?” Jimin hesitated. Kyungchul had become harder to approach these days. He was either in a sour mood or drunk. 

The alpha went home drunk more often than not. The alpha wasn’t one to drink around but these days he started to show the most unexpected traits of himself. One of the most unexpected sides that Jimin had a hard time seeing was outright refusing to listen to anything contradicting his own opinions. Jimin was struggling to handle the new Kyungchul. 

According to par, Kyungchul’s sperm count was considered low enough to reduce the possibility of making his partner pregnant. In most cases, the partner having a low sperm count proves to be disgraceful. But that’s not where all of Kyungchul’s anger lied. 

Jimin’s body was incapable of supporting a new life inside him, he was weak. And that news had dimmed all lights they could see at the end of the infinite tunnel. 

“‘m tired." Kyungchul slurred, loosening his tie with his eyes barely open.

"M-my heat is tomorrow," Jimin said bashfully. "Do you want to try again?" 

That made Kyungchul stop his motions. He stared at Jimin for what felt like an eternity before throwing his head in ridicule.

"Really, Jimin? You still have hopes for it?" Kyungchul scoffed, and the way he spoke reeked of so much anger and disappointment that it shattered Jimin's heart.  "Shouldn't you get it by now? You can't get pregnant. We can't have pups. Let's stop pretending that there will be some fucking miracle that would make this work!" 

Jimin looked up only to see Kyungchul glaring at him and it made his chest tighten. 

"B-but," Jimin shut his eyes when he felt the tears burning his eyes. "You said we wouldn't give up! That we'd try and try again." His voice cracked at the end.

Kyungchul walked closer to him, and Jimin thought he would hold him and pet his head as he would always do whenever Jimin was upset, but Kyungchul did none of that. 

"I am tired. Let's stop here." 

Jimin wanted to scream at him, to fight back and call him a fucking jerk. He wanted to tell him that he was suffering too, that he was hurting too. But he didn’t.

 

He stayed in his mate's study where Kyungchul's scent was very potent. He didn't want to see him but Jimin wanted to feel his warmth at least, it gave him some sort of comfort. He had no idea how much time passed by as he was lost in his wallowing, boring holes into whatever he laid his eyes on in the room, his mind running a thousand miles until a familiar orchid scent reached his nose. 

"Jimin?" 

If Jimin was more himself, he'd say Kyungchul sounded scared like he thought Jimin ran away and left him, but in the back of Jimin's mind, there was a whisper telling him that between the two of them, it would be Kyungchul who would, but he brushed that thought away. He didn't answer, not that it mattered. Kyungchul would be able to get a hold of his scent and find him anyway. 

"Baby?" Kyungchul called his name so sweetly, with so much concern it broke his heart. "Are you inside?" 

When he got no answer, he pushed the door open and that was where he saw Jimin, curled up on himself. The alpha inside him howled at seeing his mate so small, alone, sad. All because of him. It was his fault. 

Kyungchul immediately rushed to Jimin's side, supporting himself on his knees. Kyungchul let a few minutes pass, simply observing his mate's face, Jimin could feel his eyes. He felt his hair being pushed back and a soft peck was placed on his forehead. 

"I'm sorry," he said softly, weakly, as if he didn't want Jimin to hear. 

Jimin's heart constricted. It was getting harder to breathe. 

"I know you're awake, you can't sleep without my hugs," he jested although his voice sounded hoarse. "Let's talk? Talk to me, please?" 

And if there was one thing Jimin was the worst at, it was denying his mate anything. 

Jimin opened his eyes albeit slowly, hearing the remnants of his heart crack at the sight of his mate. He looked so sad, his eyebrows knitted together. Kyungchul had lost his youthfulness, the glint in his eyes gone. Jimin wondered if it was because of him. He was probably sucking the life out of his mate.  

Jimin gave him a small smile that he hoped masked the pain somehow. Kyungchul fussed over him in an instant, pressing the back of his hand gently on Jimin's forehead like Jimin did all those years. The memory brought a bitter taste to his tongue. 

"Are you okay? Are you- do you feel sick?" he leaned in closer and that was when Jimin noticed that he was freshly showered. That was all he usually needed to sober up. A cold shower.

His warm and flowery scent filled Jimin’s chest. 

Jimin nodded in lieu of an answer. He couldn't trust his voice not to break. Kyungchul looked at him with emotions Jimin couldn't pinpoint in his haze before laying his forehead against Jimin's.

"I didn't mean what I said. I- I was—I'm sorry." Kyungchul cried, body shaking from the force of it. 

Jimin wanted to reach out and hold him, tell him it was fine that he was okay but he wasn't. He was hurting and fuck did it hurt like hell. He could literally feel his chest caving in.

So he did nothing, said nothing. He just let him be. 

Kyungchul sat on the couch and then gently pulled him up into a sitting position before pulling Jimin gently to put his head on the alpha’s lap. Jimin looked up at him and his mate leaned forward to leave a soft kiss on his cheek.  

"I shouldn't have said that. I was a dick. I'm sorry, baby. I'm so sorry." Kyungchul held him impossibly closer, his tears flowing freely on his cheeks. Jimin hid on Kyungchul's chest, hiding his tears.

Like this, he could pretend everything wasn't on the brink of falling apart.

͓

It was all on Jimin. He already knew how this was going down, it would be awkward but he underestimated himself. He could barely look at Jeongguk. Whenever he was around, Jimin was adamant about not making any eye contact, going as far as having a staring contest with his cinnamon roll, but then he would remember that the bread was from Jeongguk, and fuck, he wanted to combust. 

Jeongguk, despite being blatantly ignored, never stopped being kind to Jimin. Greeting him every morning making Jimin smile with his contagious energy, bringing him his favorite roll every day without fail. 

This, of course, made Jimin feel bad. He could see that Jeongguk wanted to ask why he wouldn't talk to him— Jimin wasn't exactly talkative but still— but the alpha kept his mouth shut, the only evidence that Jimin knew he was upset was the pout on his lips. 

Two weeks later and Jimin still couldn't get himself to talk to Jeongguk and he was about to flee — already on his feet, head hung down — from their morning cinnamon munching like he had been doing the past couple of weeks when Jeongguk blocked his way. 

Jimin looked up to see the alpha frowning at him, but even that was harmless. Jimin backed down immediately, flustered. He shifted his gaze everywhere but Jeongguk and saw the room was empty save for the two of them. Always so early.

Jimin stepped sideward to escape but Jeongguk was quick to catch up and did the same thing. 

"Stop avoiding me, please," Jeongguk whined.

"I'm—"

"Nuh-uh," Jeongguk shook his head vehemently, brown locks flying away all over his face. "Don't lie to my face right now. You're cute but this is not cute." He crossed his arms over his chest in emphasis. 

Jimin's face flushed for the umpteenth time for Jeongguk calling him cute. 

"Tell me why you're doing this, and if your reason is acceptable, I'll leave you alone. Please?" Jimin's head snapped up at the hurt in his tone. It sounded like Jeongguk was blaming himself for this, and Jimin didn't want that.

"It's not your fault," Jimin stammered, finally finding his voice. Jeongguk was waiting for him to elaborate, looking at him with his big brown eyes. "I'm just… ashamed, em—embarrassed." 

Jeongguk sagged in relief, his arms falling back on the side. He took a step closer into his space and Jimin panicked, ready to flee once more but the alpha held him in place. Both his palms are on each side of Jimin's face squishing his cheeks. 

"You fool," he started, his breath fanning against Jimin's face. "There's nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. What Nam—Teacher Nam said was out of line. She shouldn't have said that, that was so low of her. Don't let whatever she said affect you in any way."

Just when he thought the alpha was done, he spoke again.

"It's not your fault. None of it was your fault," he emphasized each word with such tenderness that it jerked a bucket of tears around Jimin’s eyes instantly.

Surprisingly, Jeongguk didn't have to elaborate for Jimin to get what he was trying to say. And to Jimin's horror, his eyes rejected his demands and slowly released the trapped ocean. He was experiencing sincere kindness from Jeongguk's words, carefully crafted to comfort him as a friend and not as someone who pitied Jimin. Each word had such immense strength laced in them that Jimin lost all words.  

Jeongguk laughed, amused at the sight although there was so much fondness in his eyes that Jimin felt self-conscious. He pulled away but Jeongguk didn't let him. 

Slowly, the alpha was making him dizzy with the coziness. And it was such a good soothing under his skin that he was pissed. He hated that his omega was preening. 

"You look like a chick," Jeongguk said. 

Jimin frowned, and although he knew that the alpha probably said that lighten up the mood he was still heavily offended. 

How dare he call Jimin a chick when he was having an existential crisis? He was ready to retaliate when Jeongguk continued.

"A cute baby chick." Jeongguk cooed.

"I don't!" Jimin managed to let out with his face being played like a squishy toy. 

"Yes, you do." Jeongguk sang sung, swaying Jimin's head and wiggling his lower body out of pure contentment.

Jimin sniffled, holding Jeongguk's hands that were on his face, and now it was his turn to blush. Jimin clamped his mouth shut to stop the giggle pouring out of him.

"I haven't thanked you yet," Jimin mumbled seriously. And he felt like an asshole for not doing so. 

"You don't have to." Jeongguk was quick to dismiss it.

"But I want to!" Jimin insisted, embarrassed by his outburst. Jeongguk laughed and Jimin wanted to deck him in his handsome face.

"Okay."

Jimin cleared his throat.

"Thank you for…" Jimin started staring at his wringing hands before remembering that he wanted to know Jeongguk he was sincere thus he should look him in the eye. "Thank you for being there with me." 

"If you're really thankful, then don't avoid me." 

"Wow," Jimin laughed. "Is that a threat?"

The walls separating them had crumbled down after their last interaction. Not only were they back to their normal behaviors, but they were also closer than ever. Something inside Jimin was still in denial to let loose and be friends with Jeongguk, but Jimin’s wolf knew that there was no harm in doing so. He couldn’t lose their precious self because of his old hesitance, it won’t hurt. 

 

Unfortunately, the incident reached the school director. He and Teacher Nam were called to the office, they were both scolded for being unprofessional. 

"I don't need your half-assed apology." Jimin snapped when Nam “apologized”, the director hissed at him, but Jimin couldn’t care less. "Give Junseok another chance."

"Are we still not over this?" She scoffed.

"You can't fail a child who goes to school every day. He deserves an award for perfect  attendance at least." Jimin didn't forget to emphasize. "You know you can't, so stop being stupid." He rolled his eyes, feeling smug that she was left speechless.

"Don't you love your profession anymore?" 

Later that day, he happily announced to Junseok while in class that he would be given a chance to do his speech again and Junseok hugged him. 

͓

"Jiminie!" 

"Yes, Tae?" Jimin asked, curious as to what he was so enthusiastic about, how he had so much energy left. 

Their friendship had developed to the stage where they could call each other without honorifics outside of work hours.

They were out to get some lunch, Jimin, Taehyung, and Jeongguk. Opening up to Jeongguk had helped him immensely. He could stop walking on eggshells, and Jimin had learned how to open up to Taehyung too, and he often felt like an old grouchy man when he was with these two fluffballs.

"What do you think of my new perfume? Does it smell good? I bought it online for a really cheap price!" He grinned, proud of his thrift shopping, and flapped his shirt's collar in front of Jimin as if that would make him smell it better.

"I can't smell it."

"What?" He gasped. "But I already have a lot!" His eyes were comically wide and his mouth fell open so dramatically that it made Jeongguk and Jimin laugh.

"I wear scent blockers." 

Jimin often forgot that his colleagues weren't aware of this fact. Mostly because he didn't want to tell them or never felt the need to do so, until now. 

Jimin always had difficulties in getting accepted in schools for wearing scent blockers, because that meant he wouldn’t be able to smell the distress in the students like other teachers who used scenting as primary ‘detection’ for behaviors and distress. 

"But why?" Taehyung stopped rambling about his perfume, concern morphing his delicate features.

"Only when I’m in public places. It- it, uh, it makes me nauseous." Jimin said, averting his eyes.

It was the truth, well, half the truth.

Taehyung nodded in understanding. Jeongguk on the other hand fell quiet. He was always quick to catch on to things.

"That must suck." He pouted. 

"I'm used to it," Jimin assured.

Just as quickly, his playfulness was back.

"How about you Guk? What do you think?" He inquired, waiting for an answer with his eyes narrowed.

They all burst into fits of giggles.

 

The long wooden benches set up in rows of the wide hall were mostly occupied. There was enough room to walk around and take their desired seats, but the number of teachers and staff squeezing in made it difficult to find a peaceful spot.

It was harder to wander around when all anyone could see was a sea of bodies, nearly covering the entire marble floor.

They sat down at their favorite spot, as they like to call it, but it was really Jimin's. That spot was absolutely peaceful, according to Jimin’s preferences, as it existed on the farthest side of the end of the hall where people were less likely to be populated.

Jimin and Taehyung came to the spot to secure the seats before someone else could beat them to it. Jeongguk was still at the counter, waiting for the food, like usual. Jimin would like to consider him as an angel for carrying the heavy tray of meals for them. For a moment, Jimin had even allowed his mind to fantasize about a waiter Jeongguk, which turned troublesome for him in the middle of so many people. 

The serene quietness blanketing the greens and pastel blues of nature was another land Jimin could easily get lost in whenever he looked out of a glass window. Somedays the same glass was the only partition between him and the freedom that he could touch with his fingertips. He was dragged out of his mind when Taehyung broke the comfortable silence between them. 

"How are you and Jeongguk?" Taehyung asked, propping his chin on his hands. The grin that was stretching his mouth gave away that he was asking about something else.

"We're fine." Jimin liked to play innocent. "Why?" 

"Nothing. I like the view here." Taehyung changed the subject just as fast when he saw Jeongguk approaching, smiling at him. 

"Let's eat," said the clueless alpha. 

Both of the omegas perked up at the sight of the mouthwatering food. Jimin's stomach even grumbled making the two laugh out loud. Jimin was getting the bowl of rice on the left side of the tray but Jeongguk beat it to him and handed him the one on the right side. 

"This one is yours. It's not hot anymore." Jeongguk said, feigning nonchalance although his cheeks were a light shade of pink. "I asked Mrs. Gong to cool it down for you."

Jimin immediately recalled the woman who attends as a utility staff and the cafeteria.

If there was one thing Jeongguk learned after months of eating lunch with Jimin, it was that Jimin didn't like his rice hot. He gulped rice like he had a train that was about to leave in a minute, all quick and minimal chewing. Jimin was bad with hot food so it helped even a bit that his rice was cooled down. Jimin would risk burning his own mouth with hot rice, so cold rice was his way of working with life. Thus, Jeongguk had taken the initiative to do this.

"Thank you." Slowly, Jimin’s blood rushed to his cheeks, making room for the butterflies ticking in his stomach.

"No problem!" Jeongguk winked at him and then dug into his food right away.

Taehyung had a shit-eating grin plastered on his face, and if Jimin wasn't so flustered, he'd throw a chicken nugget at him.

They had devoured their meal in comfortable silence. Jimin had loved the meal so much he doubted he could stand up straight, him inhaling all meals being a problem. 

Amidst all that, Jimin still could not calm the rapid beating of his heart.

͓

They were only getting worse, that Jimin was certain of. 

Jimin started getting really insecure. He got jealous of every omega in Kyungchul’s workplace and accused him of cheating so often that Kyungchul couldn’t even utter any unfamiliar names to Jimin without the omega starting a fight. He got mad at his mate for nothing. Maybe that was why Kyungchul stopped talking and started to become more distant than ever that Jimin couldn’t reach him anymore.

Small disagreements took the shape of messier and bigger fights to the point they went out of their way to scream and hurt each other. Before, when they would fight, one of them would stay calm in hectic situations and apologize immediately because the idea of going on for days without talking to each other had pricked their hearts, but they had progressed to a point where Jimin would be the only one making an effort to prevent and apologize in fights when he was far from being in the wrong. He felt like he was the only one working to keep them together, and Kyungchul had just backed away from all of that.

Jimin could feel him slipping away from his fingertips. He was so close but felt unreachable, detached, cold. He could see it in Kyungchul’s eyes. He wanted to break free from Jimin. Jimin fucked up to the point where the love of his life was done enough with him to leave him behind. Jimin couldn’t even remember the last time Kyungchul touched him lovingly because they had turned to the point where they fought more than they spoke or loved. 

The only thing that was keeping them together in the same house was the marriage. Without it, Kyungchul would have freed himself from him a long time ago, but Jimin could not just let him go yet- it would kill him entirely. 

"Where have you been?" Jimin asked for the umpteenth time this month. Kyungchul came home at dawn again. Jimin didn't know why he kept on asking when he never got an answer. He supposed he just needed to get it out or else he'd explode.

As expected, Kyungchul just passed by him. Ignoring his existence.

Jimin missed the loving pecks Kyungchul used to leave all over his face when he would leave home for work and get back to his omega’s arms. The soft kisses were a way to greet each other at the beginning and end of days. All of the regular incidents had evaporated into memories that Jimin could barely hold together to make a picture in his mind as both of them progressed into being strangers with each other. Kyungchul began treating Jimin like he was nobody but a stranger invading his personal space. 

Whenever he came back home, he reeked of alcohol and something else Jimin didn't want to acknowledge.

"I quit work."

"What? Again? I thought we were done with this!" Jimin was fuming. Not again. Jimin knew it would become harder for Kyungchul if he continued to quit jobs in a short timespan and ink his reputation. "What was it this time?" Jimin sneered.

Before Kyungchul could get any word out, he interrupted.

"Don't even try to blame this on your colleagues. How many times did you resign this year? Don't you think you're the problem?" Jimin was on his feet, glaring at his mate. Kyungchul looked so hurt and dejected by Jimin’s harsh words, but Jimin chose to not consider that and rather set his feelings aside, but he could not avoid taking in his appearance. Kyungchul looked as drunk and disheveled as he could: red eyes, messy hair, and shoulders sagged. He looked like a lost, defeated puppy. 

"Why is it such a big deal to you? Because your parents would be disappointed that their perfect son is married to a useless alpha who can't keep a decent job?" 

"I- I didn't say that—" Jimin was taken aback. "Stop changing the subject, this isn't about me." 

"But it is!" Kyungchul chortled, lifting his hands up in frustration. "And you agree with them, don't you?" he asked, voice breaking at the end. 

"Don't put words into my mouth," Jimin gritted through his teeth.

"I don't have to. You never defend me when they berate me, and that says a lot." Kyungchul replied albeit dejectedly.

"Do you know how much I hate meeting your parents? Do you know how degrading it is when they tell you I'm just using you, leaching you off? That I'm no one if not for you? They talk about me and my parents as if we’re disgusting creatures who have some contagious disease! Do you know how much it fucking hurts me when they talk shit about me in front of you, asking you to leave me? Your mom even suggested you cheat on me as if I wasn't there." Kyungchul sobbed.

"But that doesn't matter because I know you love me and you won't do any of that. What kills me is when you stay quiet, when you say nothing like you agree with them, like you think the same about me. You do… y-you do! Don’t you?" Kyungchul was grabbing his hair by roots and pulling on them as he sat cross-legged on the floor, entirely defeated like a child who was refused a toy. Jimin had never seen him so hurt and messy, and he hated that he was the reason for Kyungchul’s situation. 

He was looking up at Jimin with so much pain in his eyes that even Jimin was convinced that he had done something utterly cruel. He had torn Kyungchul’s world apart without him knowing about it. Kyungchul’s heaviness in his scent filled the air, and it was choking Jimin so hard that he was stunned to silence. Without meaning to, Jimin had done everything Kyungchul had said. Looking back, he realized that whatever Kyungchul had said was true, in some way or the other. 

Kyungchul had been kind enough to not turn down a single dinner that Jimin’s parents had invited them to, for Jimin’s sake. He sacrificed his self-esteem so Jimin could be happy with his parents, even if that happiness lasted for a mere evening. And Jimin had taken all of his efforts for granted. 

"I'm sorry," was all Jimin could say. He was frozen on his spot, tears cascading down his flushed cheeks. "I'm so sorry. I- I don't—think of you that way. I don't- I never! I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry you felt that way— I had no idea—"

"Save it, Jimin." The way he said his name made a shiver run down his spine. 

His tone was something Jimin had always been afraid of. He sounded so resigned and dejected like there was no room for Jimin to shift. 

Jimin was mummed. Kyungchul had gotten up from the floor, headed to their bedroom, and slammed it on Jimin’s face at some point. Jimin was left all alone in the place to sob to his heart’s content. It gave him some more time to look back and see the unfolding of incidents that all built up into a messy chunk and to the present point where Kyungchul could no longer tolerate his presence. 

 

Jimin apologized countless times after that, even after Kyungchul said it was okay, that it didn't matter. He wasn't convinced. Guilt ate away Jimin whenever the words his mate had uttered that night replayed in his mind.

Kyungchul should’ve voiced his distress and feelings in those situations. Jimin thought it was unfair to bottle things up when Jimin had always been all ears for him. But looking deeper between the lines, Kyungchul had not been the best in being an open book. Jimin had always been the one encouraging him to come out of his shell and let him know the things that were going on in his mind. That had always been the same way long before they were even together, and as Kyungchul’s mate, Jimin should’ve known about the distress that occurred regularly. He should’ve looked for the hints Kyungchul dropped, he should’ve known things. He should’ve asked and pried when he was shut out, and he should have been there for him even when the door was closed on his face.

Communication had never been their strongest suit, but they had promised each other to work on their weaknesses because they wanted to love each other till their forever stretched to death. They had always tried their hardest to build up a stronger communication, and Jimin couldn’t see where exactly they went wrong.

To be the reason for his mate's anguish was something he couldn't bear, hence why he tried to make up for it by being more attentive towards him.

Jimin tried more than he used to just so he could save the bits that weren’t already lost in the sea of wallow. He cooked meals for Kyungchul so he could relax and eat when he came back home tired, all drained. He didn’t use to cook before because he preferred arranging his work over spending hours cooking meals, but he changed that habit to bring the work at home so he could prepare the meal while not missing out. Jimin figured that was how most teachers survived, that they had no time to stand up and huff for themselves.

Jimin realized he could never make up for the damage his ignorance had done to their relationship, majorly because of his attachment to work. But at that point, that was the appropriate thing to do when he wanted to apologize to Kyungchul with actions rather than words. He wanted to improve and be a better version of himself.

But Kyungchul seemed more detached lately, and it made Jimin worried sick. 

He had never been good with words or comforting people. When they fought, it would be fixed with a kiss or a stick of their favorite popsicle while they were playing in the slide of the neighborhood's playground. Jimin wished it could still be that simple.

"Alpha?"  

Jimin was standing a few feet away from Kyungchul who was seated on the couch watching a TV series he probably wasn't paying attention to.

His mate had asked him not to come near to him, said Jimin's scent upset him and although it was like his gut was being twisted, Jimin acquiesced.

Kyungchul didn't answer, didn't even glance his way. But Jimin continued.

"Are you… okay?"

"Don't I look fine to you?" Kyungchul snapped.

"I mean- you've been so quiet lately, you barely even eat. Is there anything I should know?" 

"I think I'm just tired of you." 

There, he said it. 

Jimin saw it coming but didn’t know when those words would crash down on him. And when it did, Jimin had to endure silently so he didn’t wake up the demons.  

He had it coming but he saw this situation when it was on its goddamn way because he demanded a lot of effort to be handled, intentionally or not. He required patience, for his irregular mood swings. He required understanding of his unstable feelings and uncontrollable words that he threw without a second thought but none of those problems were visible to Jimin because Kyungchul had been there to hold him back and make him find himself worthy enough to accept those problems and not change a part of him. 

They were never like the way they had become; they were like birds who had learned to fly but never knew their wings could break. They were in love, and Jimin had truly loved Kyungchul.

"I know you're mad- upset- but you shouldn't say—"

"Don't tell me what I can and can't do," Kyungchul growled, making Jimin flinch.

"What should I do for you to forgive me? I'll do anything- just- I want us to go back to the way it used to be." Jimin was panting at the end of it. He was desperate. "It hurts to be like this." 

"There's no going back, Jimin. Can't you see? Our marriage is falling apart. Can't you feel our bond straining? Sooner or later it'll snap. There's no fixing it." Kyungchul bellowed.

"That's not true." Jimin still defended his broken self, not ready to give up on it yet. Kyungchul couldn’t just throw those knives at him and not take responsibility for the consequences. Jimin had to show him that none of what he was doing was as easy as he thought. 

Kyungchul refused to see. He didn’t talk back, he didn’t argue, and he didn’t even think it was necessary to reply to anything Jimin was saying. He simply left Jimin to deal with everything he broke, including his heart.

͓

It was Jimin’s break time, and he didn’t have any more subjects until after lunch. He had two hours to spare but instead of relaxing, he was on his laptop computing grades for the first semester. Honestly speaking, Jimin was more focused on Junseok more than anyone else in his advisory class. He was happy that Junseok was doing so well in his class that even his classmates had praised him and told Jimin.

“I heard you’re participating actively in your class?” Jimin had asked him during recess, he had decided to come up and talk to him.

They were standing at one corner to the entrance of the classroom, where they could look out of the school window and enjoy the white puffs of clouds hovering over the peaks of green mountains against the stark clear blue sky.

“Yes Teacher Park! ‘s so fun!” he had beamed. Junseok was never the one for eye contact when speaking to someone. It generally came as being rude but Jimin knew better than make up baseless assumptions about him. So, he had to learn to read his tone and body language to determine whether he was really enjoying it, rather than staring into his eyes to look for a genuine smile. 

“That’s awesome to know! Keep going!”

“T-thank you Teacher Park for helping Junseok,” he said timidly, pointing to himself. “Me.”

Jimin’s heart melted. “You’re welcome, kid.” he patted his back.

 

Taehyung called in sick today, Jimin couldn’t help but worry so he texted the omega.

To: Taetae

Are you okay? Take your meds if needed, get well soon Tae. 

From: Taetae

im fine minie don’t worry too much ok?? 

To: Taetae

Come back soon! I miss you :(

[sent a sticker]

From: Taetae

i miss u too!! enjoy my absence take care of googoo >:D

[sent a sticker]

[sent a sticker]

To: Taetae

I take it back! I don’t miss you, don’t ever fucking come back dipshit.

From: Taetae

[sent a sticker]

[sent a sticker]

minieeee

[sent a sticker]

jimiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinieeeeeee

hello??

[sent a sticker]

 

T_______________T

[sent a sticker]

[sent a sticker]



“Let me drive you home. I know you can take care of yourself and that you’re an adult but—”

“Okay,” he agreed. It was getting late and Jimin was too tired to commute.

Jimin had those days where he wanted to take public transport on his way to work and to home. It might sound silly to others because what was the use of his car right? But Jimin liked the way he could use his momentary freedom to do nothing but lean his forehead against the cool window sill and enjoy the formidable structures rising from the ground to poke at the sky. 

“Okay?” Jeongguk asked and his eyes were big with surprise.

“Okay as in yes,” Jimin laughed. “Why do you sound so surprised?”

“You always say no,” he sulked. He was right, Jimin had lost count of the times he’d refused Jeongguk’s offer.

“It’s a yes today though,” Jimin teased. 

The ride to Jimin’s house was silent. Jimin knew well that Jeongguk wanted to break the silence no matter how comfortable it was but he held himself back for Jimin’s tired presence and Jimin appreciated it. He made it his turn to break the silence when he had enjoyed it too long. 

“It’s been months since you started teaching in the school,” Jimin stated.

The alpha seemed surprised but his face lit up. “Yes, I haven’t noticed until now. Time flies,” he laughs, looking at Jimin for a bit before focusing back on the road. “You used to be so mean to me, you know.” 

“Are you pouting right now?” Jimin laughed.

“But it’s true. You were so mean to me, God, you were too snobbish. Your temper was...” Jeongguk laughed, shaking his head jokingly.

Jimin flushed. “I- sorry.” 

“Nah, it’s fine, it was cute. I didn’t exactly expect you to warm up to me instantly. Anyway,” he huffed happily. “What matters is that we’re friends now?” Jeongguk turned to look at him, eyes hopeful. Jimin smiled as confirmation. Jeongguk smiled even bigger.

Jimin wasn’t sure if he should ask but curiosity got the best of him. “Why’d you leave your last workplace? Toxic environment? Or?” and he was quick to add, “you don’t have to answer.”

“I left my hometown to move to Seoul.” Jeongguk straightened up in his seat, his demeanor changing in the blink of an eye. Somehow he looked more somber than before when he replied like he wanted to look back at something that was no longer at its place. “I wanted to start over.”

Jimin bobbed his head, backing to not push him out of his comfort. “Do you like it here?” he asked again, genuinely curious.

He turned to Jimin and looked him in the eye. “I do.”

Jeongguk opened the door for Jimin and lingered for a moment, the omega standing in front of the gate waiting for Jeongguk to speak but instead the alpha was chewing on his bottom lip, looking at Jimin and then looking away. 

“What? No see you later?” Jimin joked but he was actually waiting for it. 

“I have something t-to… tell you.” The alpha looked so nervous, Jimin frowned. 

“What? Did something happen?” Jimin worried.

“No… I…”

“What? Tell me,” Jimin was getting impatient. Anxious and impatient.

“You won’t get mad?” he looked up with big wandering eyes. 

“Should I be mad?” 

“I don’t… know,” Jeongguk trailed off.

“Just— tell me.” 

“Jimin…” Jimin waited for the worst of the circumstances to hit him, to the point his palm clammed along with his rising heart beat, waiting and waiting, and then something entirely different hit him.  “I- I like you.” 

When Jeongguk spoke his part, he had held such hope in his eyes that Jimin felt like a criminal for being so utterly lost for words. Jimin had the vaguest idea of how Jeongguk had been harboring these feelings for him for such a long time, but he had always ruled out the possibility and looked the other way when he found a foul excuse to latch onto. Hearing the same doubt come as a confirmation from Jeongguk was a shock for Jimin. 

He hated to dash the hope in Jeongguk but he didn’t want to lead him on either. 

I’m not good enough for you.

I’d only hurt you.

I don’t deserve you.

You’re too good for me.

“I don’t. I’m sorry.”

Jimin saw his whole world crashing down on him again as he spoke those words to existence. He was scared of hurting Jeongguk, especially hurting him till no point of return like Jimin was hurt, but perhaps he had done the same thing he feared for. He wasn’t sure of anything. Not his situation, not any of his life choices, or the feelings he had within him that he tried to desperately suppress. But thinking about it again, Jimin wondered if an alpha as kind as him would ever deserve an omega who was Jimin. Because all Jimin could do well was hurt people and create unnecessary problems in everyone’s lives. 

“Y-you don’t have to answer right now,” Jeongguk smiled with the same breathtaking smile albeit a little strained. Jimin didn’t have the heart to say anything more so he just nodded. “I’ll wait. I mean it,” the alpha added as he was going back to his car.

Jimin hesitated but said, “See you later?” 

And it was worth it because Jeongguk’s smile could literally light up the whole neighborhood. “See you later.”

It was frightening to try again. He was afraid that he'd make the same mistake again. Jeongguk had never said or did anything that would Jimin not want to trust him but still, it was hard.

Jimin realized that he had only let Jeongguk stay on the bay, close, but he didn’t let him in.

Chapter Text

Jimin had eventually tried to pick up the pieces of himself, and that had continued on for a week without sharing a word with Kyungchul. Jimin had become tired.

Could he save them if he were just strong enough to get pregnant?

Would everything be different if he could just give Kyungchul the pups that he yearned for?

He felt so inadequate and useless because he couldn’t meet his wishes. He couldn’t keep the vows they made to each other, all those promises were demolished in the meadow. He wasn’t even capable of fulfilling the only wish that Kyungchul had made, and he felt so unworthy.

Kyungchul hadn't come home in three days, he hadn't answered any of his calls, and it was like a slap to him. Jimin wondered where he might be.

Was he just as affected as Jimin was? Or was he happy? Having fun, finally doing the things he couldn't do, because he was tied down to Jimin with those vows? 

The only reasonable conclusion Jimin could draw was that it could all have been natural for married couples. He was aware that love came with all kinds of waves and thorns, and he knew that people who loved each other had always conquered every obstacle side by side. Everything was supposed to hurt and ache till it got better, so Jimin just had to endure and wait for the fall breeze after the merciless winter. 

He was yanked out of his stupor when a loud ringing echoed in the room. Jimin immediately sat up on the bed and searched for his phone in the dark, silently hoping it was Kyungchul but his hope was dashed just as fast when he saw it was his mom.

His mom rarely called, sometimes not at all. So, for her to call Jimin out of nowhere and at 3:06 in the morning—he checked—Jimin was filled with anxiousness.

"Hello? Mom?"

There was only the sound of heavy breathing on the other line for a second, and Jimin grew more anxious as seconds passed by.

"Mom, what happened—"

"Your dad…" his mom sounded so small.

His mom need not say anything, Jimin knew exactly what happened- this wasn't the first time this occurred.

"Where are you- w-which hospital? Who's with you?" He was already on his way to stuff his backpack with all the necessary things he saw within his arm’s length. 

"Inje and I'm alone," she sniffled. Jimin should've known. His mom wouldn't have called if she had anyone. Jimin swallowed the lump in his throat and said:

"I'll be there."

She only hummed, weak, and tired, then she hung up.

Jimin called Kyungchul, he couldn't drive this early from Seoul to Busan. Kyungchul usually drove them because Jimin had motion sickness, and if a situation occurred where Jimin had to drive, he would take medicines that would help with it two to three hours prior but he couldn't wait for that long. 

Besides, Jimin needed his mate. 

After the fifth call and still no answer, Jimin started to feel his eyes burn with tears, but he was quick to wipe them before they could fall. Now was not the time for this. 

To: My Husband 

Left for Busan. Dad was rushed to the hospital, mom needs me. Be back soon. Love you, miss you x

 

Jimin couldn’t hold back when he finally spotted his mother as he rushed to embrace her. The sight of his strong dad lying on the hospital bed and being so weak and fragile broke Jimin’s heart.

His father had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at an early age. There was no way to avoid it since he always had a fifty-fifty chance of diabetes being passed to him by genes, and unfortunately, the odds were against him. Jimin tried to make sure his father had followed the diet that the doctor had charted, and he specifically bullet-pointed every day that sweets, drinks, and smokes were forbidden. But in the end, forbidden fruits always tasted the sweetest, and his father had lost in maintaining his health.

That was not the first time he had given in to his restrictions though or been admitted to a hospital because of his uncontrollable diabetes. But it doesn’t lessen the panic for anyone, since irregular fluctuations in sugar level could be life-threatening to anyone any second of the day. Every time he escaped his last breath, he lost a bit of luck for the next time, and Jimin was praying with all his might that it wouldn’t be that day.

Jimin's mom was an extremely reserved person. She was quiet, wouldn't speak unless spoken to. He remembered his mom to be like this even when he was young, the only difference was his mom used to cling and coo at him a lot. He supposed she couldn't do that to him now, but honestly, Jimin wouldn't mind if she did.

Now he and his mother had drifted far enough for him to feel dizzy when he was near enough to his mother. His mind was so cruel that it always released the dam that held all the bitter memories and fresh emotions pinned to it whenever his eyes laid on his mother, his same old mother who used to tuck his hair behind his ears when she looked up so lovingly at him. The unresolved feelings and lack of closure made his stomach ache.

"Where's Bongcha?" Jimin decided to break the silence. 

"I don't know, she hasn't come home in three months," she mumbled, fingers tapping absentmindedly on a coffee cup.

"Three months? " Jimin questioned in disbelief, his mom nodded. She didn't seem to care, and it infuriated him. "Did you not bother to know where she is? What if she's been doing stuff, what if she's not safe?" 

"She's not you," she replied curtly, a disapproving look in her eyes. 

"What do you mean?" Jimin demanded, hurt. Here she goes again, comparing him to his sister as if Bongcha was some quintessential Goddess. Jimin was used to all of it, but that didn't mean it hurt less.

"She's safe," she sighed, averting the subject. "She calls weekly. Besides, she's old enough, knows what she's doing."

Jimin scoffed. "But if it was me you'd be breathing down my neck, right? If it's her you think she knows what she's doing, but if it’s me, it's always wrong. You think I'm a reckless child—"

"Enough!" she snarled, glaring daggers at him. "Have you got no shame? Your dad's laying sick down the hall there, and all you could do is talk shit about Bongcha?"

Each word was a needle heated up to their melting point when it hit Jimin, but he was building up walls to hold them all on their way. It was one of the times when he wanted to run to his mother and tell her all about the way he was living, the way his marriage was crumbling down and dropping him from his sky, that Kyungchul had probably grown so out of love with Jimin that he could as well be cheating on him, but his mother was staring down at him with such anger and hatred that Jimin couldn’t bring himself to open his mouth and let out any of what was rotting him inside out.

All Jimin did was contemplate his choices again. Was he the only one who clung to his past life? When everything and everyone had changed with time, his safe people were no longer the people he could go back and seek love and safety from, was he perhaps the only one blinded by his own happiness to not realize everyone had somehow moved on and changed? Who cared for him now? Was his mother one of them who cared for Jimin’s feelings? Was there anyone?

"You're so unfair," was all he said, voice wavering and eyes shining with unshed tears. 

It was when his mom had left the room that Jimin allowed himself to cry silently. He was so angry for being oblivious to the point that he did not realize that his mother would not be there when he would fall apart. 

"Why is my baby boy crying?" a croaky voice snapped him out of his pity party. 

"Dad," Jimin whimpered, feeling like a kid all over again. He mustered enough strength to rush back to his father and engulf his small and weak appearing frame with the tightest hug he could give then. He had been hurting, but his father could not know that in any way. 

"Tell me," his dad urged, voice comforting. 

His father was patting and running his wrinkled hand around Jimin’s back to soothe him. Jimin yet again realized that he could only hide so little because his father would know like he always knew things in his way. 

"K-Kyungchul- he—" 

Jimin could feel his father's body tense. "What did that bastard do?"

He didn't want to say it out loud because doing so would make it feel real finally, but he felt like he'd explode keeping it all in.

"He said he's tired of m-me," Jimin hiccupped. "Dad, I think- I think he has someone else." 

As soon as the words left him and dispersed in the air, Jimin’s father visibly recoiled and sat up straighter in the hospital bed. Astonishment was painted on his facial expressions and it was so loud that Jimin winced at him. He had expected his dad to berate him for marrying the alpha when they had warned him about him several times, chastise him for being so stupid and not following them.

His dad dragged him upright from kneeling on the floor, brought Jimin beside him, and urged him to sit down on the bed. Jimin’s dad raised his palm to Jimin’s face level and gently caressed his cheek and patted his head. He was chanting some sweet comforting words that slowly brought easiness to his mind that had been restless for such a long time; it helped even though it was meant to work momentarily. Jimin was far too gone to interpret the meaning behind whatever his father was saying. He sounded nice, and it was enough for Jimin then. He had missed being taken care of, especially by his family.

"I told you that bastard's no good. You deserve better— no, no one deserves my precious boy."

Jimin shook his head on his dad's shoulder, holding onto him tightly. 

“You know, you have always been stubborn and really curious, which was normal, but as a child, you were on another level.” Jimin’s dad started, it reminded the omega of all the bedtime stories his dad had read him. “I’m not sure if you remember because you were too young but back then, I think you were around four to five years old, and you went out saying you’d play with your friends. But then you came home crying your heart out and you were holding your tongue out wiping your palms on it. It took me a while but I got you to confess. You said you were curious so you tasted the extract of that Orchid plant from the grocery store near our house.” Jimin’s father was laughing so hard he was out of breath, Jimin couldn’t help but laugh too.

“Dad!” Jimin choked on his tears, rubbing his face on his father’s chest to wipe the tears as if he were five all over again. Jimin didn’t remember everything but he definitely remembered crying because he fucking drank a flower’s extract. He was a dumb kid.

“You-” laughter. “You were crying all day with your tongue out, screaming that it was so bitter and that you didn't want to die. It was hilarious, you cried harder when I laughed. Now that I think about it, that must’ve been a sign for you to stay away from flower-scented alphas.” Jimin’s father joked to lighten the mood but he knew his dad was worried, that he wanted to do everything he could to take his son’s pain away.

“It was the worst thing that has ever touched my taste buds,” Jimin fake gagged.

Even when his father appeared to have a cold and tough exterior, he always made a special warm place in his heart for Jimin. It had always been a place reserved only for Jimin no matter how many years had passed or whatever antics Jimin came up with. He felt more at home with his father than everyone else.

Luckily for them, his dad was discharged from the hospital two days later. 

The doctor gave him a couple of new medicines to take, and he was advised to stick to his diet and stop doing things that would worsen his health that all of them had memorized already. Jimin scolded him too, but his dad had just laughed it away, saying it was cute how it was Jimin's turn to scold him then. 

His mom had been quiet, and they hadn't talked since that night. Jimin was used to it though. 

He left after dropping his parents off at their house, but not without scolding his dad once more and reminding him that his health should always be his top priority. As much as he wanted to stay, he had work and a mate waiting for him, perhaps. 

When Jimin was in his car, he checked his phone, hoping that his mate had at least left a text for him, but he did not. Another stab at his heart. 

Jimin was no stranger to coming home to a house that's cold and silent, but a shiver would run down his spine every single time he had to face all the furniture standing in the cold all alone. 

He opened the door to their bedroom, eager to hold his mate because he had missed him only to be hit by the smell of Jasmine. 

The smell didn’t come as a surprise to Jimin- he was used to the familiar Jasmine lingering on Kyungchul, so he could easily brush it off. But at that moment, the smell had been so potent all around their house, and especially in the bedroom, and Jimin had enough. The Jasmine made Jimin bleed to suffocation. 

"Kyungchul!" Jimin screamed from the top of his head. He wanted to run around the house and throw open all the windows till the house smelt something musky, rich and honey-like, anything that would remind Jimin of himself, but his knees were failing him.

Kyungchul wrapped him into a hug, his alpha showing all affection that he didn’t when Jimin needed it. Kyungchul felt warm, but Jimin knew this was not the familiar warmth he used to feel. This warmth was so foreign, perhaps a stranger shared the heat out of pity for Jimin. Perhaps the one with the Jasmine scent.

His suspicion grew stronger as he inhaled in his arms and his lungs filled with more Jasmine than he could care to throw up. But Jimin hugged him back all by himself. He allowed himself to get lost in his arms because it might as well be the last time he could do so.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there I'm—"

"Stop." 

Kyungchul had willingly let his lips meet Jimin’s, immediately reminding Jimin of the tenderness he was familiar with like the back of his hand. But then everything had traveled so far that he didn’t know where else those lips landed, and who else it tasted when Jimin was crying himself away.

They made love or at least tried to remind themselves how they felt when they were panting and thrashing against each other, all heated up. Jimin wanted to see for the last time, to carve the image of naked Kyungchul on top of him in his mind so he could know for the last time how he looked when he went down on someone else, way harder and affectionately than with Jimin.

Jimin should’ve been disgusted with himself with how he was desperately on his knees begging for a release, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Everything was moving too fast for him to stay sane, and he would pick up every petal from the dirt if it meant he would momentarily get back everything he had before. He wanted to go back to his paradise, and he would do anything to keep his home intact for as long as he could. 

He didn’t even know how long he lasted, how long he begged for, and when he had his relief. All he could think of was the way Kyungchul looked at him like he would prefer to have any other face beneath him than Jimin’s. Jimin was reminded again that his alpha doesn’t want to touch a part of his skin, and yet, they were in the same bed. Sheets were tangled and curled around their limbs and hugging their sweating bodies. 

Jimin involuntarily scooted closer to seek warmth as Kyungchul rolled over from Jimin and slumped down beside him. Kyungchul had surprisingly accepted to spoon Jimin from behind, perhaps still remembering how Jimin liked to be cared for after sex. After what felt like forever, Jimin could again smell the faint mingling of their scents filling the room and blossoming in his lungs, immediately spreading a sense of peace within him from head to toe. 

Kyungchul slowly slipped his arms around Jimin’s waist and intertwined their hands that he rested on Jimin’s stomach. Everything was so familiar yet so foreign that Jimin was suffocating with the unasked questions drumming inside his head, ready to slip past his lips. 

Jimin wanted to get into the moment so much, he wanted to be as blissed out as Kyungchul was. But his mind wouldn’t allow peace unless it had the bittersweet answers.

"Do y-you still... love me?" he asked, voice barely a whisper. Jimin felt his mate's hold on his hand loosen.

"Of course, I do. Did you even have to ask that?" he sounded annoyed, his breath fanning against Jimin's nape.

Yeah. Lately, it doesn't feel like you do, not anymore. You seem so far away. 

I miss the way you used to love me.

"Do you love... her?" Jimin's voice cracked, along with the remaining shards of his heart. He turned to face him, not caring if he looked like a wreck. 

Kyungchul's eyes widened for a moment before they softened. He averted his gaze.

"Do you?" he asked again.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"I can smell her on you— y-you fucking reek of her! Please don't lie to me. Please…" Jimin choked out.

"Jimin—"

"Answer my question!" Jimin sat up on the bed, hugging his knees, the bedsheet slipping from his hips to pool around at his side. "I've known for months. I- I knew, but I told myself it wasn't true that- that I'm probably overthinking again. I trusted you because I knew you loved me- y-you wouldn't do that to me. I thought you—thought you loved me…" 

A great sob escaped him, and he covered his face with shaking hands. 

"Why, Kyungchul… w-why…" 

He felt strong arms wrapped around him again, and his omega whined but it was short-lived as he was suddenly hit by the faint smell of Jasmine and his stomach churned, doubling over. 

"I'm sorry, b-baby…I-"

"I love you, I- I love you so m-much you've always been the—the o-only one… w-why…" Jimin squeezed his eyes shut and gasped to let his lungs have some air, helplessly praying from some part of his mind that a miracle would happen and Kyungchul would get up and say that he had always been in love with no one other than Jimin, as he had always been. Nothing was happening like he was wishing, and it hurt him so much he had to clutch at his chest to stop the source from spreading so much pain in him. 

"I love you too. I… I'm sorry- please forgive me." Kyungchul sobbed, holding Jimin close to him tightly, murmuring words so gently as if it would take the ache in his heart away, as if it would stop the bleeding.

Sceneries faded from his sight until he was consumed with a still image that was completely black. The last thing he remembered before closing his eyes was that his head was throbbing harder than he had ever felt, and he could feel the wetness clinging to the corner of his eyes even when he shut his eyes. Jimin wished again, and that innocent wish was to wake up and realize everything that happened to him was a mere nightmare, and he would have Kyungchul to comfort him with love when he woke up from that dream. 

*

As much as it had hurt Jimin to reject Jeongguk when he had been nothing but kind to him, he was grateful for the friendship that had lasted all along. Jimin was scared he had ruined the relationship after that night. He always ruined the beautiful things in the worst way.

Jimin had felt guilty for his harsh reply because Jeongguk was nearly perfect. He was pissed at the insecurities that had held him back from having Jeongguk, but then again he knew he wasn’t ready for anything that involved feelings. Jimin needed time for himself.

All his worries went down the drain when he came across Jeongguk and realized that Jeongguk was acting as if nothing had happened, and Jeongguk put up with that act even after more than one month rolled by. It was a fresh breath because he was afraid everything would change between them. He was as kind as he was before, even kinder if Jimin wanted to consider the situation, but that made Jimin feel even worse about his choices. Then again, maybe Jeongguk wouldn’t want Jimin to be sad if he knew his inner turmoil, so he tried to put up his best smile when meeting anyone.

They still continued with their morning routines. Their regular lunch sessions had not moved places, not by an inch. Momentarily, there would be occasions where they would exchange glances for longer than necessary or the unavoidable tension that rises between them when they happen to exchange a few words aside their work, but the tension would go away as soon as they would come. If Taehyung ever noticed the awkward stiffness between Jimin’s shoulder blades during those sorts of exchanges, he never spoke up about it.

It was easy to fall back to the same pace as before with Jeongguk.  

Jimin had acquired Jeongguk’s staring habit if that was possible. He’d catch himself staring at the alpha more often than before. Got caught more often than he would like to, but the alpha didn’t mind, rather he seemed to love it though. His cheeks tinged with pink when he caught Jimin watching him. 

 

They were walking to their respective classes after lunch, Taehyung having gone the other way.

Jimin couldn’t hold it in anymore. “Hey, we’re cool right?”

 “Of course,” Jeongguk answered right away, looking at Jimin as if he’d grown another head.

“Really?”

“Really,” the sound of Jeongguk’s laughter was enough to ease him.

“Thank you and I’m… sorry.”

“Don’t apologize, there’s nothing to be sorry for,” he said with a smile. “I’d still wait though.”

Jimin couldn’t help but flush, almost running to get to his class.

͓

There weren’t many things that Jimin knew about Jeongguk except that he liked his coffee black, he was really good with technology, he loved teaching, he liked to use ‘see you later’ instead of a simple ‘goodbye’, he chewed on his lips when he was nervous, he was super shy but confident at the same time. Jeongguk didn’t say much about himself, so Jimin never asked because he supposed the alpha didn’t like it. There was this strange need to get to know Jeongguk better. Jimin could lie to himself and say that it was just because he wanted to get closer to him as friends.

Hence why he started asking Jeongguk questions.

When they were having lunch.

“Jeongguk,” the alpha raised his brows in question. “What’s your favorite color?” He started with the most basic question.

Taehyung and Jeongguk looked at him as if he said something crude. He didn’t budge though, just dug on his food, avoiding eye contact while waiting for Jeongguk to, hopefully, answer.

“Yellow,” he replied tentatively. “What about you?”

“I like blue.”

“I like pink!” Taehyung interjected innocently.

During their morning cinnamon roll eating.

“What’s your favorite number on the electric fan?” Jimin casually asked as he took a pinch of his bread.

“Electric fan?” Jimin bobbed his head in lieu of an answer. If Jeongguk thought it was a strange question, he didn’t say it. He just smiled, amused. “I don’t use them.”

“You don’t? Why?” Jimin made an offended face as if he invented the fans.

“I’m scared of them.”

At this, Jimin burst into laughter, bits of bread flying out of his mouth. It felt so disgusting to him that he stopped, wiped his mouth, and turned to Jeongguk in horror. Jeongguk was simply looking at him with nothing but fondness and Jimin was caught off guard. 

“But why?” he coughed and punched his chest tightly, hoping Jeongguk would take his coughing as the reason for his cheeks coloring pink. 

“Fans cause death, it will kill you in your sleep,” Jeongguk said and when he saw that the alpha was dead serious, Jimin cackled.

“What?!”

“Jaeshin— I mean, someone… someone told me,” Jeongguk abruptly panicked at pronouncing the name, which piqued Jimin’s interest. But he chose to drive the main topic of the conversation rather than entertaining something Jeongguk might not be comfortable with.

“It’s not true!” 

“It is,” Jeongguk argued. “Haven’t you heard of the man who died because of fans? All his windows were shut so people concluded that it must’ve been the electric fan.”

Jimin snorted, “My dad told me that was stupid. He doesn’t believe it.”

The topic they had started arguing about was so ridiculous that Jimin thought either both of them were stupid enough to actually roll on with it, or they had their brains melt out of boredom, but neither of them dropped the argument, and Jimin was growing more eager than ever to throw Jeongguk in the mud. His jaw hurt from laughing too much on the ridiculous theories Jeongguk came up with when it came to electric fans to the point Jimin wondered if he was a unique kind of serial killer who killed their victims with electric fans. It easily made their entire morning pass away like it had been a few minutes. 

He even texted Jeongguk during the weekend which he usually never did. They texted before, sure, but it was mainly about work.

To: Jeongguk 

Do you prefer cats or dogs?

Jimin thought it was a stupid question, it reminded him of the past quarrel he had with his classmates. He wasn’t expecting Jeongguk to reply to such a stupid question, but he replied when he asked him his favorite number on the electric fan, so what would stop him from answering this? A few minutes later his phone dinged, and Jimin squeaked when he saw it was from Jeongguk and then proceeded to slap himself because, what the fuck was that for?

From: Jeongguk

i like both. what about you? :)

To: Jeongguk

Same.

This was why he never texted, he was so lame.

From: Jeongguk

do you have any pets?

To: Jeongguk

Nope, I don’t have time to take care of them. Do you?

From: Jeongguk

i do, i have a dog :)

To: Jeongguk

You do? :O you never told me! What’s its name?

From: Jeongguk

his name’s chuchu and you never asked :p

From: Jeongguk

have you thought about it? :)

To: Jeongguk

God, I’m so tired. Good night, Jeongguk. :DDDD

From: Jeongguk

lol good night cutie 

Jimin was actually about to have a good night’s sleep, but then the pet name had made his heart race so fast that the rush of adrenaline had sacrificed his sleep to the crows of the early morning. 



As his Getting-To-Know-Jeongguk-More quest continued, he learned a lot about the alpha. Busan was his hometown. He had an older brother, and they were really close but he lived in the States with his family. He loved going to the gym as much as he loved eating unhealthy foods like potato chips, and he could eat five cups of ramen in one sitting. He loved cold foods more than hot food. He didn't like chocolates because they were too sweet for him. He loved to draw. Those, and a lot more facts that Jimin already forgot. Jimin was good at memorization, but his memory was shit at the same time.

In the midst of his quest, Jimin found out something he shouldn't have. 

He was washing his hands in the general faculty bathroom when he overheard Teacher Nam and Teacher Hong talking. They must think Jimin couldn't hear them because they were on two opposite corners of the bathroom. Besides, they didn't make any effort to tone down their voices, as usual. Jimin wondered if this was typical gossiper behavior.

“Ya, you should stop fantasizing about Teacher Jeon.”

“What? Why?” Teacher Hong pouted. “You know I’ve always liked him!”

Teacher Hong never hid her infatuation with Jeongguk, he didn’t know why it irritated him now.

“He’s married,” Teacher Nam clucked her tongue, frowning at the other before applying her lipstick.

Teacher Hong gasped. “He is?! What— but—”

“Shush!” Teacher Nam chided, successfully shutting Hong up. 

That was when Jimin decided to leave the room.

“Ah, Teacher Park. Were you listening?”

Jimin didn’t want to argue with her but he was past ignoring her rudeness.

“You weren’t exactly subtle,” Jimin said, arching his eyebrows. 

“Be careful with Jeongguk. He might seem all nice and caring and he might make you feel like you’re the center of his world but there’s more to him. He might be exactly like your ex-husband,” she tilted his chin, condescending. 

Luckily, Jimin had learned how to manage his anger because oh did he want to slap this bitch’s face across all the way to Narnia.

“Aw, thanks for caring so much about me,” he jutted his bottom lip out, a hand on his chest, acting as if he was touched. “I really appreciate it, but you can fuck off,” he grinned menacingly. “You should’ve been a professional gossiper since you have so much time to talk shit about other people,” Jimin rolled his eyes upwards to pretend to spend a second and think for her future. “I think you’d be better at it than any other job,” he mocked. 

Teacher Nam looked like she wanted to reach out and claw Jimin’s eyes and combust in anger, her face turning as red as her lipstick. Teacher Hong looked like she would rather be anywhere else than in their presence, looking more embarrassed than Jimin could ever remember seeing her.  

“Fuck you,” Nam growled.

Satisfied with their dumbfounded reactions, Jimin walked past them.

 

Jimin ignored Jeongguk for the rest of the day. Jimin didn’t talk to Jeongguk more than necessary, and as much as it had hurt him to watch Jeongguk look at him with those round uncertainty blinking eyes, he had to hold his ground that time.

He couldn’t help but replay Teacher Nam’s words in his head, and he couldn’t help but doubt Jeongguk.

Jeongguk had never exactly lied to him in any way, which Jimin was more afraid of. In all those times, he should’ve told Jimin that he was married. He had let Jimin know that he liked him after all. Was Jimin being used as someone who Jeongguk can cheat with? Was that all he was good for?

He was feeling nauseous when his train of thought went in that direction. Jeongguk was slowly resembling his husband in that sense, the more he thought about it. 

A cheater.

Everyone had left the room, as usual, leaving Jimin and Jeongguk behind. Nobody questioned, since they were used to seeing the two of them staying late to finish and advance their works. 

“Did I do something wrong?” Jeongguk asked with a voice and eyes that made Jimin feel like everything was his fault. The alpha looked like a kicked puppy.

“No,” he replied curtly, shoving his stuff on his canvas bag.

“You’re avoiding me again.” Jeongguk sighed. “Talk to me. What did I do?” he pleaded.

Jimin felt guilty again. He shouldn’t even be concerned about someone with who he was far from being romantically involved, but still, he couldn’t help but get mad at Jeongguk. 

Communicate.

Don’t make the same mistake. 

Jimin dumped his bag on his table.

“You’re married?” he clenched his jaw, hands balled into fists.

“What? Who told you that?” 

“Does it matter? Why didn’t you tell me?” Jimin’s voice wavered, he fucking hated this. 

“Jimin, I’m not married—I mean, I used to be but I—”

“But?”

“He’s— he’s gone, he’s dead.” 

Jimin went numb. There was no way to know about it beforehand because unlike Jimin’s past being gossiped around the whole school, nobody barely talked a thing about Jeongguk. He was an alpha, so no one would dare to talk shit about him behind his back anyway. 

The lack of knowledge made Jimin feel so bad that he wanted to cry out of guilt. 

So dumb.

“I… Jeongguk- I—”

Jeongguk sighed but smiled right after. “C’mere.” Jimin did, trotting toward Jeongguk.

“Can I... hug you?” Jimin asked sheepishly.

The hug was firmer than Jimin had expected, his face was practically squished against Jeongguk’s solid chest. That was when he realized his scent blockers were wearing off, and the faint smell of orange was lulling him to peace. He got to a point where he could smell nothing but oranges, and he basked in the warmth of it for as long as he could. 

“I’m sorry,” Jimin mumbled sincerely, wrapping his arms around Jeongguk.

“It’s okay,” he could feel Jeongguk’s lips moving against the skin on his forehead. “I should’ve told you.”

“I should’ve asked first— I mean you don’t have to explain yourself to me. We— we’re not—”

“Shh, calm down, okay? It’s alright. I understand.” 

“I’m still sorry,” he pouted. Jeongguk just laughed.

“I won’t do that to you. You don’t have to worry.”

 

As much as Jimin denied it, he was happier these days and he found himself smiling a lot these days. He tried his best to not get tangled with the feelings blooming inside him, but it grew harder and harder to avoid them when they were staring at Jimin and covering his vision. 

Taehyung and Jeongguk have started accompanying Jimin to his home after work hours. Jimin was adamant about having zero company when he made his way home from work because he needed his personal time after dealing with classes and work, but also made a point of not bothering the two of them since they needed some time for themselves to relax too, but they stood their ground so firmly that Jimin couldn’t muster more courage to deny them. Besides, Jimin loved being with the two. 

Mrs. Gong on the other hand had started feeling guilty because she couldn’t spend much quality time with Jimin lately. Jimin had been in similar situations a handful of times, so he didn’t even have the nerve to be upset about the simple situation. All he did was assure her that she could take as much time as she needed and huffed when he was successful in knocking some sense into her old head.

The few minute walk with Taehyung and Jeongguk when they exited the school building and entered the parking lot was one of those times where Jimin secretly wished the minutes wouldn’t run out and rather stretch out forever. 

Taehyung often teased them saying he felt more like a third wheel with Jimin and Jeongguk than the third one in the group whenever all of them went around places, laughing and joking around. Jeongguk successfully dodged the bullets and laughed away Taehyung’s threatening remarks, but both of them failed to notice the way those very remarks made Jimin flush, and Jimin wanted to keep his flushing view to himself rather than doing something that would make the both of them observe him like a laboratory object.



"Teacher Park, you're glowing these days!" One of his students started chirping one day. 

He had laughed it off, unsure of how to respond.

"They said you glow like that when you're in love." Another one followed and chirped in, wiggling his eyebrows playfully. 

"Who said I'm in love?" Jimin fake-scolded, ducking his head in an attempt to hide his burning cheeks. He had been receiving these kinds of remarks very often lately. Even his colleagues had teased him about looking happier, and Jimin honestly didn’t know what to do with it.

"Teacher Park's blushing!"

"Aye! Aye! Aye!" They hollered around Jimin like they joined a meat festival and felt like the dead fresh meat that was hanging in the middle. Jimin hated that he easily gave into the teasing, but he couldn't help it because the students were poking at the feelings he was trying to control so much so that they won’t slip out of him that easily.  

Jimin pursed his lips, pretending to be annoyed but honestly, he was just hiding a smile because it would surely egg them on. "Hey, class—" 

And of all the possible times Jeongguk could have chosen to enter, he did it right now.

Jeongguk peeked at the door, at the students who were eyeing him like eagles with amusement, and then Jimin whose face was crimson red.

"I'm sorry to interrupt but—" 

“Aye! Aye!“

Before Jeongguk could even finish the poor sentence, the students broke into another spine chilling holler that immediately cut Jeongguk off for good. 

Jeongguk was at a loss for words, and Jimin couldn't help but facepalm. Please, let the ground swallow him the fuck up.

"Kids, stop," Jimin whined.

"What?" Jeongguk laughed albeit confused. 

"It's nothing," Jimin was quick to say, he turned to the class with narrowed eyes. "I'll be back. Behave." 

The cheeky youngsters just chuckled.

"What's up with the kids? Are they giving you a hard time?" Jeongguk asked as soon as Jimin stepped out of the class. He seemed too amused for Jimin's liking.

"No, I- they're just uh, teasing me," he stuttered, avoiding the alpha's eyes. 

Jeongguk hummed, obviously unconvinced but he let it go.

"I just need you to sign this memo," Jeongguk pointed to the clipboard he was holding. "Apparently the Division Office is coming tomorrow for an inspection so the classes will be cut for a general cleaning," he explained.

"On such short notice? Isn't that too early this year? They usually come around the year’s end." Jimin frowned, but signed on it nonetheless. There might've been some changes.

Jeongguk just shrugged. 

"See you later?" Jeongguk was anticipating his answer with a soft smile and big brown eyes.

Jimin was sure his heart faltered for a moment. He rushed back into the room without saying anything.

 

As he was walking from his last class of the day back to his advisory class for the general cleaning, Jimin caught himself smiling while thinking of a certain pair of brown eyes. He blinked slowly, taken aback by his own thoughts.

What the fuck?

He shook his head and slapped his cheek lightly, but his traitorous mind wouldn't let him be and it seemed like for every breath he took there was Jeongguk.

Jimin had been trying to disregard how his stomach fluttered whenever Jeongguk would greet him in the morning with a bright toothy grin. The way his cheeks burned when he caught the alpha staring at him during lunch. How a tingling sensation started from his head and spread throughout his body at the tiniest contact. How his heart would jump at the sound of his voice. And when his heart raced at Jeongguk's see you laters that he couldn’t make himself answer. 

God, had he been trying to ignore all the things the alpha was making him feel.

It was uncanny yet intoxicating to feel this way. 

Was it because of his old age? Because it had been so long since he felt— or allowed himself to feel this way? 

Jimin had come across a lot of alphas after his divorce, but none of them managed to make him swoon over any of them so badly like Jeongguk was doing with so much ease. Jeongguk made it so easy for Jimin to fall for him, and Jimin was sure Jeongguk didn’t even have to put effort into it, he was beautiful through and through. 

A lot of alphas had shown interest in him, but he didn’t feel ready to take a step forward. Jimin knew well that he would need a lot of time to heal from the scar from his past, for which he couldn't trust people as he could before. It was always easy for him to get along with people and be on good terms with everyone, but when his trust issues took a toll on him, he changed. He was working on himself by taking baby steps, one of the steps being able to see the good side of everyone so he could build firm trust.

Before he could have the time to delve deeper into his thoughts, his students who were holding, no, riding broomsticks called out for him. Jimin threw his head back and laughed when he saw one of them with a stainless bucket covering his head.

͓

Jimin was six when one of his cousins, who came to visit, broke his toy car and he had almost cried himself to oblivion. That was his favorite toy, Hot Wheels Classic Cobra, that his father got him on his fourth birthday. To say that he was heartbroken when he saw his cousin holding the dislodged toy in his hand was an understatement— he was downright angry

First, his cousin didn’t ask him for permission, and his mom always told him to never touch someone’s things without permission. Second, he took very good care of his toys. And last but definitely, certainly, not the least—again, that was his favorite toy, that was from his father

Jimin stopped in his tracks, fists clenching as he started to make sense of what just occurred. His brows were in a deep frown and he was boiling in anger, his lips trembled before he started to wail. Jimin’s father was by his side in a flash, asking him what was wrong while rubbing his back. Jimin pointed at his cousin, who looked like his soul had left him, crying along with Jimin. After understanding the situation, his father had told him it was okay, that he’d just buy him a new one. Jimin cried some more while glaring at his cousin, before calming down with his face buried on his father’s neck. His father kept on patting his back as Jimin hiccuped. 

Later on, they were asked to reconcile, and Jimin acquiesced for the sake of not upsetting his father and just so his cousin would stop crying. He was not mean, no, he was a very good boy, his dad told him so. Jimin just found it hard to accept that his favorite toy was gone and that he had to move on like it didn’t mean anything to him. 

Jimin did really forgive him anyway, but not until two years after.

Jimin supposed that was his biggest problem— he found it incredibly hard to move on. For Jimin, the concept of moving on was so unrealistic, it was almost ridiculous. He didn’t think it was possible to just accept that things happened and forget something ever meant anything to him and move on. It was stupid of people to think that everyone could just do that. 

The lengthy process of moving on isn’t as pretty as writers draw out in books, so Jimin had been told. But when does one know when he had moved on? Maybe when the uncomfortable weight that sat on his chest every time he came across that familiar face wouldn’t be there? That certainly wasn’t happening now. So there was good evidence that people faked them.

Pretending was the key to survival, after all.  

Perhaps, that was why he was here, sinking his teeth on his lips painfully to muffle the sounds as he cried inside a cubicle in the faculty.

It was the day when the Division Office officials were supposed to conduct their yearly assessments on different schools to examine whether the school was being taken care of or if it was an environment suitable for the students. They were also here to check if the school’s teaching method was efficient by conducting surveys with the participating students, and to check the number of enrollees this school year, to make sure that the necessary documents of the students were complete, specifically the graduating ones.

Jimin expected this day to go like the past inspections. Usually, after, everyone was given free time to spend however they liked as a reward for helping clean the school and maintaining proper behavior during the actual assessment— that was one of the good sides of this. 

Even though it was on such short notice, they managed to make the school look like a newly built one. The students were asked to wear black shoes and not sneakers that the school usually wouldn’t mind if it were any other day. Most of the students, especially boys who needed a haircut were tasked to get one. The girls however had their hair up in a nice bun. Jimin had gushed about how mature and good-looking they look, and he received disgruntled noises that made him laugh. He loved to tease them once in a while to get back at them for their shenanigans.

The teachers, of course, had to play a part in this too. They were usually free to wear whatever they liked as long as it followed the school’s guidelines, but today they had to wear the sailor coated uniforms and shirts along with black ties that matched the color of the students' uniforms. Jimin wasn’t particularly fond of this uniform. The material was thick, and for someone who sweats easily, this was not the best type of clothing, but it was pretty and elegant. Besides, it was only for a day. He was feeling exceptionally good today too.

Jimin had just finished applying some gloss on his lips when a familiar greeting reached his ears.

“Good morning, Jimin!”  

He was about to scold Jeongguk for calling him like that so carelessly in their office where someone might overhear but when he turned around Jimin was dumbfounded.

Jeongguk had his hair parted to a side with bangs casually slipping out from behind his ears and falling over his eyes, as he stood in all his glory wearing the uniform that Jimin had been frowning over for hours. The black fabric stretched and hugged him in all the right places that Jimin couldn’t help but agree that Jeongguk had pulled the uniform in the best way possible. And holy fuck his handsomeness was going to be the death of Jimin right that moment. 

“Good… morning.”

Jeongguk, oblivious to Jimin’s existential crisis, grinned. “You look pretty.” 

Jeongguk had never been shy of affection and compliments since day one, and Jimin thought he had gotten used to it but guess the fuck not. He couldn’t look like that and talk like that.

“T-thank you,” Jimin managed to finally look him in the eyes and he felt his soul leaving him once more. “You… uh, look good too.” 

He must’ve looked so stiff that Jeongguk thought he was bluffing.

“Well that’s the first compliment I got from you, but you don’t have to mention that,” he said before tossing a cinnamon roll to Jimin, and thanks to his reflexes, he caught it before it could crash on the floor.

“But I mean it,” Jimin pouted. while cradling the piece of bread against his chest. He didn’t want Jeongguk to think that he was insincere because he wasn’t.

Jeongguk flushed but he was quick to recover, winking at Jimin and throwing him finger guns.

They were asked to meet in the conference room where they would greet the people from the Division’s Office. Jeongguk and he talked as they sauntered to their destination, mostly about their students and their whimsicality.

Jimin expected this day to go like the past ones but as they reached the room, a familiar gentle, mellow, flowery scent hit his nose, and he just knew this day would be different. Jimin usually wore scent blockers. But in his rush, he forgot them today. He stopped in his tracks, his heart throbbing violently in his chest he felt breathless.

“—min are you okay?” Jeongguk asked, a frown on his face.

“I… yeah, I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? You don’t look well. Is something wrong?” Jeongguk’s hand was on his back in an instant, offering comforting rubs.

“No, no, I’m okay,” he assured while still bent down, palms on his knees as he tried to even out his breathing. “Let’s go.”

There was no mistaking that it was Kyungchul—his ex-husband, past mate. He could never forget it no matter how much he wanted to.

The smell of Orchids.

And Jimin used to love it. 

He loved to bury his nose into his neck and drown in the familiar scent. It smelled like home. But now that same scent made him want to hide somewhere he can’t be found. 

Funny how the scent that used to put a smile on his face made him want to cry now. 

Jimin and he worked at the same high school before but Kyungchul was in a higher position— a headteacher. He left the school almost four years ago, moving from school to school right after their divorce. What a coward, he knew, but he couldn’t bear to see him every day, not after what happened.

That’s why seeing him here in flesh paralyzed Jimin. 

“Jimin, are you sure you’re okay? I can talk to the school director if you don’t wanna be here.” Jeongguk said, always so considerate. They were a room away from the conference room, and here he could see Kyungchul clearly. Jimin shook his head but went behind Jeongguk anyway.

“Go first,” he said but before Jeongguk could take a step, Jimin reached for his hand, avoiding the alpha’s eyes. Jimin needed something to hold onto.

 

Jimin was antsy, he couldn’t stop rocking his feet and picking at his nails. His apprehension just worsened when the school director said that the grade level representatives were assigned to show the Division officials around and right there Jimin saw his end.

"Hey, calm down." Jeongguk placed his hand on Jimin's with a lot of carefulness as if afraid Jimin would jump out of his hold. He looked at Jimin as a way of asking if it was okay. Jimin bobbed his head, not looking at Jeongguk but at their hands, and as seconds passed by his racing heart had calmed down a bit.

Jimin was annoyed and disappointed at himself if anything. He couldn't believe he was acting like this. He was making it so obvious that he was still affected, that his ex-husband's presence still had an effect on him, but none of them knew that Kyungchul was his ex-husband per se— at least that was what Jimin believed. 

From the way Jeongguk was back and forth between Kyungchul and him, he probably got a hold of why Jimin was like this. He had always been sharp-witted. However, Jeongguk didn’t say or ask anything, just tried to comfort Jimin by caressing the back of his hand. If Jimin wasn’t so shaken, he would’ve slapped his hand away, would’ve flinched from his touch.

He was too busy hiding behind Jeongguk although it was stupid because he was certain Kyungchul could smell him anyway. Jimin couldn’t focus much on what the school director was saying other than that, apparently, Kyungchul was now the head of the Division’s Office, and had been a year since he got promoted. Jimin had no idea, but it made sense because they hadn’t spoken since the divorce. 

Kyungchul looked composed and confident, the way he used to look before. He seemed happy, like what happened between them didn’t affect him in any way. It was like he had achieved everything he wanted in life. Perhaps, he had. 

 

The meeting was done faster than Jimin would’ve liked. Everyone got up from their seats, getting ready for the assessment. Jimin, however, was still glued to his seat, and he didn’t even realize he was squeezing Jeongguk’s hand so hard until the alpha spoke.

“Hey, you sure you can do this?” Jeongguk asked and there was so much concern and affection in his voice that Jimin’s vision blurred. He blinked his eyes to keep the tears at bay before glancing at Jeongguk.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” he replied, getting up from his chair still not letting go of Jeongguk and the alpha was kind enough not to pull away.

He pities you, pathetic fuck.

Jimin’s heart twisted painfully at the thought, but he ignored the demons in his head and smiled at Jeongguk, a silent thanks for his attentiveness.

“I’ll get going,” Jeongguk said, but he looked like he wanted to do anything but leave that place beside Jimin. Jimin watched as Jeongguk carefully surveyed his face with his darting brown eyes.

Jimin nodded as a response. He wasn’t sure what else he should have said, he was hesitant to leave Jeongguk too. He didn’t want to be alone, Jeongguk’s presence was comforting to him even when they were in public and surrounded by dozens of people. Jimin had half an hour left, but Jeongguk still had to do his work.

“Okay.” 

“See you later.”

͓

Jimin, as the professional that he was and as the representative of the high school teachers, had to endure thirty excruciating minutes of talking to Kyungchul—of having to look at his face. 

He was assigned to give Kyungchul a tour of the school and to show him the ropes. He could’ve refused this work but what would he say? He’s my ex-husband and I’m still not over him. I can’t be with him. That sounded absurd even to Jimin’s own ears.

It hurt just thinking about him. But seeing him upfront like this? It was as if an earthquake had hit within him, his flesh convulsing with the threat of all the accumulated emotions being released that will surely follow devastating damage with the magnitude of it.

When the elementary representative was done with his part, he called for Jimin.

“Teacher Park, I’m done.” Taehyung smiled. “Mr. Kang is waiting for you in Building 4.” He waved at him, Taehyung mouthing good luck before disappearing into the cafeteria. Jimin nodded at him, sighing heavily before going to building four. 

It was probably the longest two-minute walk Jimin had ever had. Once he reached the building, Kyungchul was there, standing in all his glory. Jimin just stood there, watching Kyungchul’s back as he talked to the school director animatedly, not aware of his presence yet, too immersed in their conversation. He wanted it to stay that way. Jimin wanted to run away, thinking to himself how fast he would be able to run and disappear, but before he could execute his plan, he was stopped dead in his tracks. 

“Teacher Park, there you are!” 

The school director greeted and Kyungchul turned around at the same time. He looked as surprised as Jimin to see him, or feigned surprise because he must have had smelled Jimin beforehand but recovered soon enough, a polite smile spreading on his face.

“I’m sorry if it took me too long.” Jimin bowed as if to hide the way his face contorted when the mix of Jasmine and Orchids hit his nose.

“Mr. Kang, this is Park Jimin.” Jimin directed all his attention to the school director doing everything to avoid eye contact with Kyungchul. 

“Good afternoon Mr. Kang, nice to meet you.” Jimin addressed him with a tight-lipped smile. He hoped he didn’t look like he was about to pass out because that was exactly how he felt. “I hope you’re pleased with your visit.” He added. 

It took a moment for Kyungchul to respond. He kept staring at Jimin, making him squirm. Kyungchul, upon noticing, broke the ice.

“Nice to meet you too, Mr. Park,” he was back with his professional smile, looking dignified. “I am, thank you for asking.”

Mr. Park.

It was ridiculous how after spending almost a decade with him, now they weren’t even in any position to call each other by their first names. They were back at square one.

The school director left them shortly after, asking Jimin to take care of Mr. Kang. Jimin just went along with it. Soon, it was just the two of them.

“Shall we get started?” Jimin hid his trembling hands in his pocket.

“Yes, sure.” He answered, looking as personable as he used to be.

They went from classroom to classroom in absolute silence, and it had never been so ear-splitting. Kyungchul examined each room, students standing up to pay respect each time they entered a different one. All Jimin did was guide him to the classrooms and introduce him to every class, but other than that, he was pretty much just standing beside him, tapping his feet on the ground to distract himself, trying his best not to gag.

The tension between them was palpable. He could feel Kyungchul’s eyes on him every now and then. Jimin tried to curb his omega’s—or perhaps, his —itch to throw himself in Kyungchul’s arms and bask in his presence to make up for all the wasted years. 

They didn’t part on their ways messily; they tried to talk and calmly resolve the issue when they decided to end their relationship. It was a mutual agreement, but Jimin could still not bear to talk to him or look at his face because somehow, Jimin had dominated the mutuality. 

Jimin was slowly giving in to his own thoughts because of the scents that were clouding his mind and judgment with ease. The memories were slowly rushing back in great depth and details, and the constant lingering scents were triggering them. 

Before Jimin knew, they were done with the last classroom.

When Kyungchul bid goodbye to everyone, the tightness in Jimin’s chest intensified, and he had never hated himself more at that moment. He excused himself immediately, struggling to keep the tears from falling as he rushed towards the faculty, apologizing mindlessly when he bumped into people.

Why the hell did he feel like this? 

Jimin had been doing so good pretending he was okay. He had everyone fooled, even himself. 

It had been four years since their divorce. He should be fine, he should be happy, and he should be doing as well as Kyungchul. He should’ve moved on, should’ve started over with someone else.

He was doing so well. He had been smiling a lot, meeting more people than being completely closed off to the world, and he had even let some people in his life be a part of his happiness. He was enjoying his life. 

Now his heart had been cut open again and it wouldn’t stop bleeding. 



After the tears ran out, which he thought wouldn’t, and deciding he’d had enough self-pitying, he got up and opened the bathroom door. Jimin found Jeongguk in the bathroom, leaning on the counter with his hands crossed, staring at the floor. Jimin hadn’t noticed him come in, he didn’t smell him either, probably because his nose was stuffed from crying. Jimin ignored him, thinking that the alpha was probably using the bathroom. He didn’t want Jeongguk to see him like this, thus he turned to the door to leave.

“Jimin.”

Jimin turned and raised his eyebrows in question but stayed silent, not in the mood to talk, and when Jeongguk didn’t speak, he turned to leave again. 

“What happened?” Jeongguk asked, round eyes filled with concern as they raked over Jimin’s form. 

“Nothing,” Jimin answered, clipped.

“I got you some scent blockers. I-I’m not sure if they are the same brand you use b-but—” Jeongguk halted when he saw the tears glimmering in Jimin’s eyes. Jimin was taken aback by Jeongguk’s thoughtful act of kindness shown towards him. It wasn’t the first time that Jimin had been at the receiving end of Jeongguk’s kindness, but his acts always took Jimin by surprise. 

When Jimin looked up, he met Jeongguk’s large eyes studying him curiously, and Jimin immediately ducked his head to hide whatever part Jeongguk was looking at so intensely. 

“You don’t... look okay.” Jeongguk hesitated, looking right into Jimin’s eyes. 

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Jimin snapped, anger simmering inside him.

But maybe, the sudden burst of anger he felt was toward himself, for constantly lying to himself, for constantly hurting and pushing away the person who genuinely cared about his well-being. 

“I’m okay…” Jimin mumbled, more to himself than Jeongguk, letting his head fall.

Jeongguk cradled his face in his hands, thumbing away Jimin’s tears gently as if Jeongguk was afraid he would break. Jimin looked at Jeongguk, marveling at how genuine he sounded when he said:

“No, you’re not and it’s—it’s okay.” 

The urge to push Jeongguk and do the thing he was best at—running away, was strong like a bewildered animal begging to be let out, but the need to be held and cry was stronger. Maybe all he needed was someone to hold him while he let his world fall apart. 

“You can cry, it’s alright.” Jeongguk’s voice is like the first ray of sun after the piercing winter. 

Jimin did.

“I shouldn't f-feel this way. I should- I s-should be over it already. I don’t love him, no, that I know for sure, but it s-still… it hurts.”

Jimin didn’t even understand why he felt the need to explain himself to Jeongguk, but he was doing it anyway. It was easy to let everything out when Jeongguk was so eager to be ears for Jimin without any hint of judgment restricting him on his way. 

“You’re allowed to feel this way. Don’t let other people tell you otherwise. They don’t know what you’re going through, they don’t understand. I don’t either, but I’m here for you. I mean it, I’ll always be here for you.” Jeongguk choked out the last words, which made Jimin look up to see him. Jeongguk had been slowly breaking down too, unable to hold himself back while watching Jimin. 

He buried his face in the alpha’s chest, a hot downpour of grief and pain coursing down his face as he bled the salt of his soul. Fathomless emotions stir with no other outlet but through his deep-rooted sobs.

͓

A couple of months passed in a couple of minutes for Jimin. 

Jimin had wanted to leave, couldn’t bear to see his mate when he knew the alpha had let another omega touch and hold him the way only Jimin was supposed to. He couldn’t bear that his mate thought he was so inadequate and felt the need to take another omega.

It killed Jimin inside out. The pain that hit him every time he thought about it was more suffocating than any of the things he had felt before. And the pain magnified when he realized that the roots led to Kyungchul who vowed to keep him happy forever. 

The past promises and the present circumstances had completely gone to his head and fucked him over. He lost his appetite, he was struck with insomnia, his overworking and crying away had led to painful head throbs from staying dehydrated for long periods.  

Jimin wanted to leave, but Kyungchul had cried, begged him to stay, and said he’d change. He said he would stop seeing the other omega, and Jimin almost told him he didn’t mind, it was his fault why his own mate wanted to fuck some omega who would probably make him happier than Jimin ever managed to. Kyungchul promised him that he would do anything for Jimin just so he could forgive him, and Jimin wanted to ask him to punch a hole in his chest and take his heart out because maybe then, it would hurt less. 

But he said none, just nodded his head because as much as it hurt, he couldn’t just leave his mate. He had vowed to take care of him, to love him through all his faults. He just wished Kyungchul did the same. Jimin wished Kyungchul didn’t find someone else so quickly when he slipped once. 

Jimin didn’t have all the bitter feelings, save for the fact that Kyungchul had moved on faster than Jimin could imagine doing, but he knew he was largely at fault for the failure too. He had a lot of qualities within him that he could not use for the lacking he had as a mate, he did a lot of things that had hurt Kyungchul, but most of it had taken place because he didn’t realize that his actions were harmful. He had done all the things thinking they were right. 

But then, all of the situations had progressed to a point where Kyungchul had grown out of love, but Jimin was still so much in love that he couldn’t allow himself to freely look at another human and feel some kind of romantic emotion without feeling guilty. The guilt-tripping he did to himself because he was still in a place where he thought that any kind of emotion he felt towards another person would be cheating on Kyungchul, where Kyungchul had gone around and blatantly done the very same things. 

Nevertheless, Jimin had to live with himself, hoping everything would eventually fall back into their right places with time. And he had learned to see the right sides of things, even through his insanity. 

Jimin was hoping that their marriage could be salvaged.

Kyungchul had tried his best to keep his words and follow them. He had begun to make changes to himself, to the point where he counted the insignificant events in their lives. He stopped carrying the scent of flowers with him like it was a guilty trophy. 

Kyungchul would kiss him on several occasions throughout the day like leaving for work or returning home after a long day, and Jimin tried his best to hide the way he flinched whenever his lips met Kyungchul. Jimin would cry his heart out secretly when Kyungchul would leave him alone at home for work. 

Despite his efforts, they both could never deny the fact that nothing felt right anymore. Even though Kyungchul was more of a closed-off person when it came to expressing his inner turmoil, his eyes were like open books for Jimin, and even though Jimin could see Kyungchul putting efforts to save the last bits of him, he still could not be happy; he was stuck with the heaviest chains and it was written in his eyes. He didn’t have to use words for Jimin to know. Jimin could tell that he was bound, and he didn’t want any of what he was pretending to do so passionately. Jimin wanted him to fly, with or without him. He didn’t want trimmed feathers on his hands, he would rather have blood. 

Jimin could only hold on for so long.

“Let’s get d-divorced,” he choked out one night, the words like poison in his mouth.

They were having dinner, Kyungchul was talking about something about an intern not doing his work properly and burdening everyone, but Jimin wasn’t paying attention, could barely eat.

Kyungchul dropped his utensils, the clattering of them loud in the stillness of the room. 

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“Why? We- we’re happy, right? We’re doing well. What’s wrong?”

“Stop lying to yourself. We’re not happy. I’m not happy, y-you— you are not happy.”

“N-no, Jimin, don’t do this. I- I told you I’d change, I promised you I would and I’m being good. What else do you want me to do? I’d do anything. Please.”

“I’m nothing but a burden to you. I- I can’t —-” he choked. “I can’t even give you pups. I can’t give you the life you want… I- I know you’re not happy.”

Silence.

“I- don’t need pups, I have you. I’m sorry, don’t do this. I can’t live without you, Jimin I can’t.”

Jimin didn’t understand why he was having such a heated argument with Kyungchul when the truth was written all over the walls and sky in front of their eyes. Jimin could see what he wanted, the stars in his eyes wrote it out for him in the boldest font, but his willingness to try everything out for the umpteenth time did not make any sense to him.  

“Kyungchul…”

“If- if this is because of what I did— I’m sorry I’ve changed! I stopped seeing her. I don’t need her. I don’t love her Jimin. It’s only you...only you I swear.”

It’s only you.

“But you don’t love me either,” he mumbled, not accusatory, no nothings. He was just stating what was obvious to the entire world, if not for Kyungchul. Just facts. “Not anymore.” 

God, it hurt to say that, hurt more because it was the truth.

Kyungchul’s quietness just proved his words. Just when Jimin was internally admiring the moment for having his old thoughts brought to existence, he immediately regretted when he witnessed tears streaming down Kyungchul’s face.

“No, I love you, Jimin, baby. I love you…” he said more to himself than Jimin, shaking his head as if he was trying to convince himself. “Don’t leave me, please. You said you’d give me another chance you said you— are you just going to throw everything away?”

You threw us away first when you slept with her—”

“It was a mistake Jimin! I told you it was a mistake.”

“It- it wasn’t a mistake. You did it s-several times, you wanted it.” 

“I… I’m sorry, please Jimin- please, forgive me…” Kyungchul kneeled in front of him and desperately hugged his torso as if Jimin would disappear if he stayed silent for a second.  

“I can’t— I c-can’t do this a-anymore. It hurts, so much. Kyungchul… I- every time I see you, I see you with her. I see what you did, and I can’t keep doing that to myself. A-and I can see it in you, you’re tired as well, so I’m letting you go.”

“No, no, no I’m so s-sor—ry,” Kyungchul sobbed, shaking his head vehemently with his face buried on Jimin’s lap, fist curled on his pajamas like when they were younger and the alpha broke the pencil Jimin gave him. And Jimin did exactly what he did before.

He petted the alpha’s head softly and mumbled, “It’s okay, I’m not mad.”

Anger couldn’t seep through him; Jimin didn’t have the energy to let himself feel any anger or be consumed by any emotion entirely. He felt numb. He had no energy to deal with the same bullshit he felt he had been dealing with for ages. 

“Then w-why do you want to l-leave? Do y-you not love me anymore?” Kyungchul could barely let a coherent sentence out from how much he was crying, and Jimin’s heart broke. He couldn’t help but feel like this too was his fault.

“I do baby, I love you so much,” he sobbed, wiping his tears away furiously. “Ever since we were— were kids, I o-only ever loved you, you know? You w-were— ugh, you were always so nice and so cool, and I was this mean kid who never listened, never got along with our classmates, always getting into petty fights, complained a lot. But you were always there for me— defending and saving my ass,” he huffed out a watery laugh, letting the memories rush into him. He wasn’t sure if Kyungchul could hear him as the room was filled with both of their cries, but he continued anyway. 

“You were always t-there for me a-and— and you were always so, so kind to me. You never got mad even though I was being a bitch for nothing, and when I cried you literally sat me down like a child and then waited ‘till I stopped, and you would praise me for being a good boy even if I didn’t deserve it,” he paused, breath shuddering. “A-and when we were in college you always helped me with my projects and presentations e-even if— if you were so tired from your work, even when I was supposed to be— to b-be the one helping you. Baby, you never asked for anything in return, you just loved me— loved me the best, made me the happiest, Y-you were so good to me, good God. I love you so fucking much I hope you know that.”

“Then don’t l-leave m-me… no, please, please, please—”

“You never gave up on me. I’m so so so sorry that I’m giving up on you— on us now. I… I’m— I’m so… s-sorry.” 

Jimin was no quitter, but he knew when to let go.

“No- d-don’t— no don’t no, no no!”

“I’m— I’m sorry, sorry... I love you s-so m-m—much. I don’t wanna keep holding you back. You’ll be better off without me. I’m sorry for not being enough. I’m sorry for all the pain I’ve caused you, for all the harsh words I said to you I’m so sorry f-for everything I...”

“No! It’s okay! It- it’s o-kay please forgive I’ll be good I p-promise, sorry… Jimin…”

Promise. 

Kyungchul had promised to love Jimin forever, but that had gone down the drain as smoothly as water. Jimin realized and believed immediately, that promises shouldn’t be spoken into existence, only should be kept in minds and hearts. When the promises are brought to existence, they lose all the strength. 

Jimin took his face and cradled between his palms in the most carefully, only to leave a soft fleeting peck on his forehead before letting him go. 

Both Kyungchul and Jimin broke into a river of tears. They held each other tightly, to cherish the last opportunity they were getting to bid farewell to the last moments they would spend with their skin touching. They cried to mourn the love that was slipping underneath their tightly fisted fingers. 

 After mutual agreement, Kyungchul had decided to move out of their place, leaving Jimin with all the things that had their memories delicately laced with them. Jimin had thought that maybe he would have a quicker closure for every event that turned up to that separation, but the abandoned bedroom, furniture, and utensil sang the same song every time he demanded answers; they weren’t meant to end up on the same side.       

As per the rituals, his mating mark was removed. 

The first year went for Jimin like he had experienced an entire orbit all while standing on eggshells. He stayed on edge; he was close to bursting into tears in the simplest situations, even when he laid his eyes on a simple bouquet of flowers when he passed by a flower shop. Jimin spent the night crying away the loss of love he suffered, desperately trying to tame himself for the craving he felt for his alpha. 

When things had started to take a toll on him, he went to his parents to be comforted. He should’ve known that he was a disappointment for everyone because all his parents did was drive him back to his insanity while showing nothing but utter disgust towards him. He was a disgrace to them, he came to know this new information as his parents had explicitly pronounced the words. 

His handling of situations became so bad that he wanted more time to shut himself in the darkest corner of his room and ended up cutting off contacts and avoiding anyone who wanted to care about him. In a way, his name was tainted. He was an omega and he was divorced, which immediately created an impression in everyone’s mind that he wasn’t a worthy omega. And that instant picture of him in everyone’s mind had been so much for Jimin to deal with alone that he started believing it too, after all, how long could he fight and defend all alone? He wasn’t strong enough to handle everything on his own, and he caved in more quickly when he realized his mate cheated on him and weakened his walls.

He didn’t expect much from his mother when he went to his parents seeking some consolation, but the way his father had downright refused to acknowledge his sufferings had helped him believe that he was truly at fault. Every day passed and his faith in the fact that he was unworthy became stronger and stronger. 

His former in-laws however didn’t say much either. They accepted Jimin and respected him as Kyungchul’s mate but that was all. They weren’t strangers to the way his own parents had looked down on them hence why they were always apprehensive of the omega. Jimin’s non-existent relationship with his in-laws ended when his life with Kyungchul ended.

Jimin was tired of searching for other’s mistakes in their actions instead of looking into himself. So when he ran out of all the fuel he had within him, he saw all the faults that outnumbered everyone by thousands of times. 

His inability to conceive, his incapability of being a worthy mate, his behavior, and he was so undeserving of love to the point he got cheated on- everything piled up and got into his head and made him reach his peak. 

He was the problem. 

 

Sometimes Jimin couldn’t help but question himself and his moral compass because he chose to let the love of his life go away without him when Kyungchul was the only man he knew he could love. He couldn’t help but think that he made a huge mistake. Jimin was incapable to keep his greatest love beside him, how could he ever keep himself together? 

Not only Jimin decided to let go of the love of his life, but he had crushed all the promises and dreams they had created together, that stretched to their old ages. Kyungchul wanted to try because he could somehow believe in them, but why couldn’t Jimin? What exactly was left of them to be saved? 

Had he given up too easily? Had he made a grave mistake? Jimin often questioned himself at the crack of dawn, and his eyelids promised not to meet until he had the answers to himself. The pain was torturous. 

But then he realized that the pain of loss he was feeling was nothing compared to what he felt when he came to know that the same alpha he could literally worship had gone around and cheated on him with another omega. His mate didn’t love him. And even though the pain was consistent, it was nothing compared to the blow he had. It was reasonable to end things where there was no hope. Nothing could save them, because they weren’t meant to be saved.

Time passed, but not in a blink.

Time passed in the thickest straight line, and time made Jimin feel everything before taking away his capability to feel the same emotions as intensely as the first day. Jimin was going numb because he was getting better at pretending that pain could only be felt if it was allowed to. The pain couldn’t feed on him anymore, because he was feeding on the pain and tricking his destiny to make himself think that he was doing better than ever. 

The pain couldn’t exist, just like the wedding photo on the back of his door. Because he chose to not make them exist, and he could do it because he didn’t pay them any attention worth a fractured dime. As long as he didn’t acknowledge things he didn’t want to acknowledge, he would be fine. 

Jimin decided to take the remainder of the day off- he was too drained to do anything. Jeongguk was kind enough, as always, to drop him off because Jimin was too shaken to drive and go home by himself. Jimin hated it, asking for and receiving help. He couldn’t help but think it was all out of pity because they thought he was weak. He supposed he hadn’t much choice, he was weak.

He was lying on the couch in the living room hours after he went home, he didn’t have much energy to go to his bedroom, landing his body to the nearest and softest surface possible, curled up in himself. 

Jimin knew, all too well, that he was doing good. But then again, was it only him who was trapped in the illusion of time being a straight line? Maybe he was so caught up in his own mistakes and misery that he failed to realize that he made more mistakes while mending his previous ones.

He didn’t want to be stuck, he didn’t want to remain that way.

Growing up seemed to be so exhilarating. He was so keen about wanting to grow up so he could start working and save up to buy his parents a mansion as huge as the one he saw downtown and give them everything they deserved. He wanted to give back everything they sacrificed for him. 

He wanted to grow up fast so he could stay up way past his curfew and watch all the cartoons he was unable to watch because his mom told him to sleep. He wanted to be able to eat as many sweets as he wished without getting his ears twisted by an angry mom screaming about cavities. He wanted to grow up fast so he could marry the love of his life, own pets, and have a family.

It seemed uncomplicated and magical—like a pot full of gold at the end of the flamboyant rainbow. Now, he thought growing up was just the mud left on the pavement after a downpour. 

Before he could get carried away by his train of thoughts, the doorbell rang. Jimin pushed himself up with what little energy he had, not caring if he had tear tracks still on his face, and headed towards the door. He wasn't expecting to see Jeongguk. Jimin hastily rubbed the tears away from his face and put up a front for Jeongguk. 

"Hi, why are you here?" he asked, voice hoarse. Jimin winced at his own question, he should've asked him to come in first.

Jeongguk looked cozier than ever in his casual outfit. His hair was back to his usual style that Jimin was so used to, with fringes falling over his curious brown eyes that wandered around the whole apartment before landing on Jimin. 

In lieu of an answer, Jeongguk lifted up a bag of Nyamnyam Pastries. Jimin's heart skipped but it made his skin crawl at the same time.

"I'm- I couldn't stop thinking about you ever since I dropped you off- maybe- I don't want to leave you alone like this. I thought maybe you wanted some, uh, company?"

"Why are you doing this?" Jimin said through gritted teeth, his hand squeezing the hem of his shirt. 

"What do you mean?" Jeongguk sounded genuinely confused, and it angered Jimin even more.

"Is it because you pity me?" he snarled. He shouldn't have expected much from Jeongguk or anyone. 

"What? No, I—"

"Get the fuck out of my life! I don't need any more of that shit. I'm fucking tired of it!" Jimin shoved Jeongguk, making the alpha stumble and the bag of pastries to fall and scatter on the floor but he was quick to regain his balance. "Just—get lost!"

Jeongguk was just letting Jimin shove him, punch his chest. He was letting Jimin hurt him. This was what he was good at, no? Hurting people. 

"Stop thinking that everyone pities you! Some people actually care about you. I care about you!" Jeongguk screamed back at him, his frustration proving enough for his actions. The alpha placed his hands on each of Jimin's shoulders, calming him.

"No, you don't! You're just saying that to make me feel better. You're just like everyone else."  Like all those people in his life who couldn’t do much but pity Jimin, gossiping behind his back like his life was for some dramatic entertainment. It made sense for Jimin to think like that, he wasn’t used to genuine feelings shown towards him. 

After all, why would an alpha as perfect as Jeongguk go out of his way to show Jimin that he actually cared, if not out of pity? He could never see the real Jimin and still have feelings for him. 

"I know it's hard for you to let people in, I know it's hard to trust people, I know. I know how much you've suffered— that— that you've been hurt before— but not everyone is going to be like those people. What about Taehyung? Mrs. Gong? What about me? What about the people who want to love you? Jimin you—y-you can't keep pushing people away, you can't keep doing this to yourself." Jeongguk was panting by the time he let his heart give up control over his mouth. His eyes shined with hope and understanding, and Jimin grew unsure of his own sight with each blink because he himself was tearing up with every word Jeongguk had spoken. 

"...b-but I'm s-scared. I’m so scared I’m so scared." Jimin’s façade cracked. And that was when it hit him that how tired he had grown dealing everything on his own. He wasn’t only the strong omega he pretended to be when he walked around with his chin high among the crowd, he was a human too. He was a human who was trying his hardest to bury his emotions till it found a way to pierce through him in the most hurtful way, and he had forgotten about that possibility amidst trying to move on and playing hide and seek with himself. 

"I know, and it's okay to be scared. I know it feels like everyone’s trying to fool you, I know you think that everyone’s going to betray you— leave you— but that’s not going to happen all the time. You have so many people, you have me. You just have to open your eyes and accept the things you see. I’m not asking you to do it right now. I don’t expect you to. Jimin,” he let out a shuddering breath. “You have to stop feeling sorry for yourself. No one would be able to help you but yourself, but I’ll always be here with you, I’ll hold your hand. I won’t leave.”

Jimin jumped on his feet and pulled Jeongguk into a warm embrace, burying his face at the juncture between Jeongguk’s neck and shoulder. Jeongguk’s hands gently wrapped around his waist.

A place where he could undress the weight off his shoulders for a day and bury himself in infinite warmth and comfort. He was home. 

Chapter Text

The next Friday, both Jimin and Jeongguk were too zoned out in their own little world to return back to reality and go home, so they decided to stop by a convenience store and grab some ramen that they were both craving. It felt nostalgic to Jimin like he had been doing that with Jeongguk forever. 

They enjoyed the food with silent smiles and overall silence blanketing each other. The ramen was good, as always. It had been a while since he had one, or hung out with someone and shared a meal. He had always avoided situations like these because it reminded him of specific events he never wanted to recall in his life, but now he found himself not caring. They were just simple distant memories.

“I met him through a friend. You know those seminars we teachers go to?” The alpha started, his darkened pair of eyes was set on the busy street that helped everyone in the world carry on with their lives. 

Jimin didn’t expect him to talk, he didn’t want to force Jeongguk to talk about something he didn’t want to but since he did, Jimin listened intently.

“That was where I first met him, and we got along pretty well. Went on several dates, and we just didn’t want to let each other go, so we got married. It was the happiest day of my life, as cliché as that sounds. Some said we were impulsive, that we shouldn’t marry that early because we would lose interest and end up in a divorce, but none of them were true. We were so happy, but I lost him just as fast.” Jeongguk said somberly. 

“It was like any normal day. We got up for work, ate our breakfast— fried eggs— he always had two eggs with fried rice, his favorite.” He ducked his head momentarily and smiled to himself.  "We talked during breakfast about how two years had already passed since our marriage and we were so sure that nothing would ever break us apart. It was just as lovely. He had a business trip that day, so he would be gone for a few days. He kissed me before going and said his usual ‘goodbye love’”. Jimin saw him swallow, his eyes blinking rapidly. His surroundings suddenly became ten times colder. “I-I never hated that word more.”

It dawned on Jimin then that he never heard Jeongguk utter that word, the alpha would say “see you later” instead. Whereas Jimin thought Jeongguk had his worst worries and fears displayed on his sleeve for him, he looked deeper to find the bigger concerns well hidden in the darkness. 

“Then two days later I received a call from an unknown number asking me if I knew anyone named Jeon Jaeshin,” he paused, closing his eyes before he continued. “Traffic accident. If I knew that would be the last time I would see him, I wouldn’t have let him go. That day I felt like I lost everything. It was s-so unfair. We had so many dreams we wanted to fulfill. We wanted to live in New Zealand because he loved nature, and that place was just perfect. We wanted to have a family, two girls, and one boy, and have our own floating house. We wanted to grow old together, but the opportunity to do all those things was snatched from us. 

“I was so lost, so angry at the world because why him? He was— he was so full of love. There are so many horrible people in the world, so why him? We w-were— we were so happy. He was everything I could ever ask for. We had everything. I couldn’t understand. I wasn’t there at his funeral because I didn’t want to see him like that. I couldn’t accept that he was gone, I just couldn’t.

“I quit my work. I shut everyone out because they don’t understand, they never will, no matter how much they said they did. Whatever they said to make me feel better— those were all empty words, they meant nothing to me. No matter what they say the pain was still there. I got addicted to alcohol— that was all I did. Get so drunk that the next morning I’d throw up all over my room, lie on the mess and wake up again the next day. Then when I wake up, I would cry, I would talk to him because maybe he could still hear me. I blamed him at one point, because why did he leave me? We vowed to be forever, so why did he go first? Why did he leave me with so much pain? He was so unfair. He broke our vows. I blamed myself too, maybe I wanted to die too, I wanted him to take me so I could be with him already because how am I supposed to live without him?

“Everyone was telling me to move on, to just get over with it already, to start over with someone else but it’s not that easy, and that’s what they don’t understand. I was like that for a year and I thought I’d stay like that forever until I went to his study room for the first time after his death. I can still recall how hard I cried, how I broke down when I smelled him, it was very faint but it was there. I went through his stuff, anything that would remind me of him because I felt like I was forgetting him already. Then I saw his journals.”

Jimin didn’t dare to say anything, he was willing to be all ears for as long as Jeongguk wanted. When Jeongguk looked up, Jimin nodded at him assuringly, further confirming that he would be okay. He had hope. 

“He loved to write journals, he wrote every night before we went to sleep. He had a bunch of those, but I never read any of the entries. He hated when I did, got mad at me. He was embarrassed. But that night I just read them, I thought maybe he wouldn’t mind, or maybe he was glaring at me wherever he was. I couldn’t remember much about what exactly they were about, just random stuff about how his days went by, what made him happy, angry, a cute dog he saw on the way home that looked like his childhood dog and all that. But there was one line he wrote that really struck me: “even if you feel stuck, just keep moving forward ”, a-and I felt like it was a sign from him. I knew he wanted me to s-see that,” he choked out. 

“It was then that I realized that if he was alive, he’d deck me in the face if he saw what I was doing, what I’ve become. I knew he would hate to see me like that; giving up without a fight because he had always been a fighter and he would want me to fight too, and it took me too long to understand that. I picked myself up. Going to his grave was the first step. Then after a year, I moved out of our apartment. Of course, it was difficult, and I felt guilty because it was like removing him— I couldn’t do it, and I had so many reasons to not try but the few reasons I had to keep trying kept me going. I tried my best, I wanted him to be proud of me, and I knew he would be. It took me a while, longer than I expected, but here I am. 

“Grief is so complicated. One day I’m okay and I remember him laughing, happy with me and I’d be happy too, but then there are those days where I’m just sitting and watching a TV show, and then tears would just roll down my eyes because I was struck with pain. Some days I’m angry, some days I don’t feel anything at all. But my therapist told me that was simply the process of grief, and I’ve come to understand that as time passed by.

”I stopped going to therapy for almost a year now, stopped taking my medications too. I think I am better. Better than before.”

Jimin carefully watched Jeongguk until he spoke his last word of the moment. He could in no way know the depth of Jeongguk’s pain, but he could certainly put himself in his shoes to at least picture something and empathize, and pull some strings from his memories of his past and feel the same kind of pain. He could imagine how hard it was to lose one’s mate, which was why he could listen and understand Jeongguk in the first place. 

“Are you happy now?” 

There was a long pause, just metallic clanks and tire screeches echoing against the streets, and Jimin thought Jeongguk wouldn’t answer.

Jeongguk turned to look at him. “I am.”

“You’re so strong… do you know that?”

“I know. We all are.” Jeongguk ruffled Jimin’s hair.

“Have you… moved on?” asked Jimin carefully.

“No, I don’t think I would ever move on, he would always be in my heart, but it’s not always a bad thing. I just learned how to move forward,” he smiled. “I wasted so much time dwelling on the past, on the things I had no control over, but this time, I want to focus on the present, on myself. Life is short, I want to do the things that make me happy. I want to do whatever I want. Jaeshin would want me to be happy too.” 

Jeongguk scooted a little closer to Jimin and extended his hand, and Jimin reached out in return.  

“I regret a lot of things, I have a lot of things I wish I could’ve done— should’ve done sooner, when I had the chance to. And I don’t wanna live with regrets anymore. So please,” he stroked the back of Jimin’s hand with his thumb. “Give me a chance, give us a chance.”

Jimin blinked, unable to process Jeongguk’s words. Jimin was nothing like Jeongguk's past mate. What if Jeongguk grew tired of him? What if Jeongguk realized in the long run that Jimin wouldn’t be enough? That Jimin wasn't what he wanted? Everything could go wrong in so many ways, and he might lose Jeongguk too and that was what scared him the most. 

"W-what if it doesn't work?" Jimin voiced out, unconsciously tightening this hold on Jeongguk's hand.

"At least we could say that we tried." 

Jimin admired Jeongguk for being headstrong on his ground. Jeongguk had the ability to see the good parts in things that were deflected in the worst ways possible, and he was able to take lessons from all the things he had experienced, including his sufferings. He was the kind of person Jimin would gladly look up to. 

He was scared of crash landings, but he couldn’t just stay away from flying just because there was a small chance of him crashing again. He was willing to try, willing enough to spread his wings and fly away to find his happiness with the one he was falling for at such a leisure pace.

͓

It had been a month since they decided to try, baby steps, as they both promised and that was what they were doing. It wasn’t wonderful all the time, Jimin still had those days where he felt like everything was going to crumble and he’d be discarded like garbage again. He tried not to feel that way but it was inevitable, and Jeongguk understood that Jimin came with such fear and insecurities and he embraced them and eased them in all the ways he could.

The teasing they received from their students before, however, increased tenfold because apparently, it was so fucking obvious that they were closer than ever, that something changed between them and the two didn’t deny it either. 

Hence why wherever they go, the teasing followed. Even their colleagues had joined in, and even though Jimin hated the attention, he couldn’t help the smile that stretched his lips and the rosiness that burned the apple of his plush cheeks. 

Taehyung was the happiest about their relationship. He had even sulked and said they should’ve told him sooner and that he hated being left out, and when they promised him that they would tell him sooner next time, he screamed as if he had won the lottery. Mrs. Gong was happy too, she even had tears in her eyes that almost made Jimin cry. They didn’t get to spend much time together but during the times where Jimin felt alone and pathetic, she was there to cheer him up in her own little ways.

But of course, not everyone would be happy. There were those people who scowled at them, but there was more hate received by Jimin for ‘tainting’ an amazing alpha like Jeongguk. Jimin didn’t give them attention, Jeongguk was a different story. He growled at everyone who dared to sneer at them or say anything unpleasant. Jimin’s omega was elated at his alpha’s show of dominance.

He knew there would always be those people who always had something to say about literally anything, but the two of them decided not to care.

͓

A date, Jimin thought it was daft.

Did people of their age still go to dates? He felt silly because it had been a long time since he had an interest in going to one let alone actually being in one. Nevertheless, he was excited. 

Jeongguk asked him where he wanted to go for their first date. Jimin abashedly admitted that he was the most comfortable inside his house. The omega didn’t like crowds, he felt self-conscious like he couldn’t be himself. Besides, he didn’t enjoy all that fancy stuff. He fretted over the fact that Jeongguk was probably already getting bored of him but that thought didn’t even have the chance to last for more than a second when Jeongguk grinned at him and pinched his cheeks and said he thought that would be nice too. 

Jeongguk had his mustard yellow long sleeve tucked in his blue washed ripped jeans hugging his small waist with a black belt. Its sleeve rolled up, revealing the tattoos Jimin didn’t know Jeongguk had. The alpha’s bouncy chocolate hair fell over his big brown eyes with heavy volume. 

“Didn’t know you had tattoos,” Jimin mumbled. He ran his finger on Jeongguk’s tattoos, traveling his knuckles and wrist to beneath Jeongguk’s elbow. 

Jeongguk laughed, amused at Jimin’s fascination. “Yeah, though I have to cover them for work. It’s a pain in the ass to have to cover them every day.” 

Right, dying one’s hair was okay but tattoos were prohibited. Tattoos, apparently, weren’t a good example for students. It was understandable, tattoos were still taboo. Why Jimin couldn’t understand and he refused to agree with it too.

Jimin nodded in understanding and pulled the side of Jeongguk’s rolled sleeve before he could stop himself, his pointer finger and thumb pinching the soft material. 

“What?” 

“...hug?” Jimin said sheepishly and before he could run away and hit his head with a pillow Jeongguk pulled him by the waist gently and hugged him. All the tension left the omega’s body when his nose caught another whiff of the alpha’s orange scent. Thank fuck he wasn’t wearing scent blockers. He could get used to this.

He tucked his chin on Jeongguk’s shoulder and closed his eyes. Jimin almost purred when Jeongguk petted the back of his head. “You’re such a baby,” Jeongguk cooed. Jeongguk took such good care of him, he really did feel like a baby. 

Jeongguk’s baby. Giggles.    

Jimin knew he was being needy and if he was held like this months ago, he would’ve squared up but Jimin right now didn’t want to be away from the alpha.

My alpha. Our alpha. Mine. 

Unfortunately, they did have to break away from each other so they could proceed to their date. Jimin’s cheeks immediately heated up at the thought. 

Their hands were intertwined as they entered Jimin’s house and it didn’t miss Jimin how Jeongguk’s gaze lingered on the photograph still hanging on the wall at the back of his entrance door.

Opening himself up to Jeongguk wasn’t easy and he had expected as much but Jimin was willing to try and things were at least a little bit more bearable because Jeongguk was there. 

Jeongguk assured him that the omega did not have to tell him anything, that he was fine with not knowing things, but Jimin insisted. If he wanted them to work, he would have to communicate and reciprocate the effort Jeongguk was putting in for them. 

So that day Jimin told Jeongguk everything he needed to know, which included the significant details of his past. He was not afraid to open up, not anymore, because Jeongguk had always offered to be all ears for him.  

“It was my fault too, why he grew tired of me. I always nagged him, got jealous so easily, then accused him of things, and said a lot of hurtful words I didn’t think twice of. I was inconsiderate of his feelings and I didn’t even realize how badly I was hurting him until that one fight,” Jimin admitted, heaving a sigh. “So when I found out that he was cheating on me I- I couldn’t even be angry. I just felt… devastated. It was my fault why he cheated. It was my fault he wasn’t happy anymore. So I let him go and I never felt more stupid in my life. I regretted letting him go because maybe if I had held on a little more we would’ve been able to fix it.

“But now that I think about it, what we had was beyond repair. We loved each other truly but that love one day just wasn’t enough to keep us together. We would’ve hurt each other more if we were still together. He wouldn’t be happy with his new mate and I wouldn’t be here with you, healing, trying again. I guess we just weren’t meant to be and I know that now.”

After Jimin gave himself a rest for slowly crafting his memories into a small journey, he was feeling different than he expected. He thought he would be hurt if he surfed through his memories, but he was taken by surprise when it had felt incredibly refreshing to let some rotten parts of him out in the air. 

“People make mistakes. You both made mistakes that tore you apart but don’t ever think that him cheating on you was your fault. That’s just absurd. That was his choice, and you didn’t deserve that, no one does. Okay? Stop blaming yourself.”

He hadn’t realized how close he was to the alpha until he looked up and saw that Jeongguk’s face was literally an inch away from his. Their bodies are molded together, sharing each other’s body heat as easily as they share each other’s hearts.

They continued with their movie marathon, they weren't really paying attention to the movie, just filling their stomachs with greasy foods. Jeongguk kept running his hand on Jimin’s left side and Jimin being the ticklish mess that he was couldn’t help but squirm and erupt into giggles. The poor omega’s cries for Jeongguk to stop tickling him fell on deaf ears, he was enjoying the omega’s misery. Jimin felt like a teenager once again and it was weird, a better kind of weird.

Jimin had always loved cuddling but the past few years he had been so bitter and hurt that he couldn’t stomach even the slightest touch. Fake gagging at the slightest show of affection from people around him, scowling at couples, always thinking that those relationships would meet their end too, and only now did he realize how fucked up that was. For years, Jimin carried this mindset that everything and everyone was faux.

In his eyes, they were in a perfect place. They were happy, lively, in love, together. Then one day the cloud darkened everything around him and Jimin was forced to watch every piece of that beauty fall and break into bits. When anyone came forward to help him stand strong and actually support him emotionally, he began to shove everyone away. 

When the most perfect thing in his life couldn’t stand strong, how was he supposed to believe that anything else was ever real? 

But Jeongguk was incredibly affectionate with his words and actions, he never shied away from it and at first, Jimin was so tense, so reluctant to accept it because what if it wasn’t real? He would get hurt again and he knew he didn’t deserve it, he still didn’t think he deserved happiness, but these days he was more relaxed. 

Jimin still couldn’t believe how little time it had taken him to get this laid back with Jeongguk, how easily he had been able to open up with him.

It didn’t make sense to him. He still had a lot of fears, lots of what-ifs running in his head. Like he was dreaming and he was afraid he'd wake up and realize everything wasn't real.

͓

“Teacher Park!” 

Jimin was about to leave his advisory class to head to his second subject when one of his students piped in.

“Yes, Kyungmin?” he asked without turning his head, too busy cleaning the mess of chalk his students had left on the teacher’s table after the group activity. 

“Please look here!”

Curious as to what it was, Jimin did and he never regretted having eyes more than that moment. Three students held up one chalkboard each, the one on the left had Jeon scribbled into it, the middle was a poorly done heart, and the last with Park. Before Jimin could open his mouth to scold his students, they beat him to it.

“Jeon love Park! Jeon love Park!” 

To hell with the people who said 10th graders were matured. Jimin pretty much just turned his back for not more than a minute and this was what his evil students did. He wouldn’t be surprised if they had this planned. Even though he wanted to scold his students, he broke into a smile. He didn’t think he could ever get mad at them. His students were his cute little devils although they’d most probably flip if they found out Jimin called them cute.

“Class!” Jimin wanted to yell at them but laughter came out instead and his students burst into fits of giggles too. By the time they were, hopefully, done teasing Jimin they all had tears in the corners of their eyes. The omega’s face was red.

“Teacher Jeon visited our class yesterday.” 

“Oh, really?”

“Yes, Teacher! He said we shouldn’t give you too much headache and that we should take care of you. He also said you love us.” The mischievous and tallest Hanbin said, getting shy by the end of the sentence. The class nodded in agreement. Some of them throwing him finger hearts, some of them dabbing to show their enthusiasm but most of them were looking at him with shit-eating grins. Jimin didn’t know what to answer, and it seemed like his students had no plans of letting him speak either.

“Who do you love more, Teacher Park? Teacher Jeon or us?” Lee the troublemaker interjected, smug.

That question, Jimin didn’t expect.

“I- I’m-”

“Teacher Park loves Teacher Jeon more, the answer is clear!” Junseok sulked, pouting his lips. The class agreed, drumming their hands on their armchairs. They were amused, enjoying riling their teacher up.

“That’s not true!” Jimin argued, ears as red as the color itself.

“Teacher Park doesn’t want to answer the question.”

“You have the right to stay silent, Teacher Park, but anything you say may be used against you in a court of law,” Junseok stated robotically, face as expressionless as ever and it made everyone holler in tears. Some of them went as far as barking out laughter while dedicatedly clutching their tummies and effectively cleaning the floor. 

Do not lie. Do not lie.”

“Jeon loves Park.”

“Park loves Jeon.” 

Jimin collected the chalkboards and left the room in a hurry after the laughter died down. He was ten minutes late. His students were lucky he loved them dearly or he would’ve slapped their asses. He swore he was too kind to them.

He still had to recover from his students’ antics when he bumped into Jeongguk on his way to his next class. 

“Hey, why is your face so red?” Jeongguk frowned. “Everything okay?”

“Yes!” he replied faster than he would’ve liked, almost whining in shame. It was late when he noticed that Jeongguk was staring at something below.... His chalkboards. The chalkboards. 

“Miss me that much?” Jeongguk grinned, wiggling his eyebrows. Jimin wanted to slap the stupid grin from his handsome face but he wanted to feel the softness of his lips too. As soon as that thought reached his mind, alarms rang in his head. In his haste to escape from Jeongguk and himself, he dropped his canvas bag and the chalkboards effectively embarrassing himself even more when Jeongguk saw what was written in three of them.

Jimin groaned and hastily picked up the fallen ones, slapping Jeongguk’s hand away when he tried to help.

“Jeon heart Park, huh?” he teased.

Where did the shy and easily flustered doe-eyed alpha go? He didn’t like how the tables have turned. Jeongguk was starting to shade off the walls of shame and becoming flirtier than Jimin was used to. Looking at him, Jimin thought if Jeongguk was natural with his heart-fluttering charms.

“I didn’t write that!” Jimin protested, nearly stomping his foot.

“Sure.” Jeongguk smirked.

“I said I didn’t!”

As always, the bastard just laughed at Jimin’s wrath. Throwing his head back, the corner of his eyes crinkled, and his prominent nose was scrunched up in such a cute way. 

“I swear I’ll skin your head if you don’t stop laughing,” Jimin warned. Jeongguk just laughed harder. 

How Jeongguk put up with Jimin’s outburst was beyond him. Jimin sometimes got out of control and way meaner with his words, but he was trying to tone it down. He always felt guilt course through him when he’d snap at Jeongguk over the most stupid things because of his faulty defense mechanism. But the alpha was as patient as ever and would only smile as an answer to Jimin’s tantrums. The omega was trying to be better though.

“How am I supposed to get scared when you look so cute?” Jeongguk pinched both of his cheeks. 

Jimin just rolled his eyes and stepped on the annoying alpha’s foot, successfully making him yelp in pain. 

Huh. He shouldn’t have tried Jimin. Jimin closed his mouth to suppress a laugh as he waddled to his next class.

“See you later!” 

͓

“I didn’t know Teacher Jeon has such low standards when it comes to choosing an omega,” Nam said scathingly.

Jimin would have used the other bathroom but he didn’t want Nam to think that she had that power over him so he entered and washed his hands. And since Nam wouldn’t let Jimin live, Jimin would never back down either.

“Oh, are you jealous? Is your ego hurt that he didn’t choose you instead?” Jimin gibed.

“Yes, actually. It’s such a shame. Jeongguk is an amazing alpha, extremely good-looking too. I bet he’s amazing in bed too.”

And that was his limit. Jimin growled at her and pushed her to a corner, her head hitting the hard ceramic wall, the sound of her head, hopefully, cracking satisfied Jimin.

“I don’t know what you want from me, but I say you better stop before you regret ever breathing.” 

Teacher Nam already looked like she was either about to lose her shit or lose her head. Jimin never understood why Nam had to pester him for more than half of his work life, and he was very much willing to have an answer at that moment. 

“Like me or not, I can't give two shits about what you care about. But I'd like you to think twice before poking your flat nose in my business. I’d like to see you fucking dare.” Jimin snarled. He was aware that Nam didn’t like Jeongguk like that and that she was just doing this to spite Jimin so he gave it to her. He growled at her one more time before shoving her away and leaving the room with a satisfied smirk.

͓

“Doyeon, are you okay?” 

Doyeon’s head snapped up from where it was lying on her armchair. Her lips were pale and she was sweating. “Y-yes Teacher.”

Jimin wasn’t convinced so he asked Doyeon to follow him to the infirmary and Doyeon did silently. He guided her to the infirmary and just as she sat at one of the beds, she collapsed. Apparently, she hadn’t eaten for a day and wasn’t getting much sleep lately hence why her body gave up. Jimin bought her a meal and gave her a few bills that she refused at first but Jimin insisted. No one was aware of her situation, not even any of her classmates. She was always quiet but attentive, doing her best at school. Jimin told her that she should not hesitate to ask Jimin if she needed any help.

Later that day when Jimin was having lunch with Jeongguk and Taehyung, he still couldn’t stop thinking about Doyeon who was left at the infirmary to rest.

“How did you know she was sick if she didn’t tell you?” Taehyung asked with a mouthful of rice.

“I smelled her distress.” 

“You smelled her?” 

“Yeah.”

“I thought you can’t smell because of scent blockers? Were you just lying? Did my perfume smell that bad?” He sulked, dropping his chopsticks and crossing his arms over his chest petulantly.

Jimin and Jeongguk looked at each other before breaking into a laugh. 

“He stopped using them a week ago,” Jeongguk said when Jimin couldn’t stop laughing.

It had been a week since Jimin stopped wearing scent blockers. It was weird at first because he had gotten so used to them, practically lived on them through all these years. The mix of scents made him feel dizzy but he had pulled through. Honestly, the use of scent blockers was affecting his health somehow. He often felt dizzy and lately he would throw up and he told Jeongguk when he asked why he took too long in the bathroom one time after their lunch. When he stopped using them, he immediately felt better.

“And you didn’t tell me? Again ?”

“I didn’t think it was important!” Jimin giggled, eyes turning into pretty crescents.

“But you said— Oh Gosh Jeongguk stop staring at Jimin it’s disgusting!” Taehyung gagged, pinching Jeongguk’s arm.

Jeongguk hissed and rubbed the abused skin. He then caressed Jimin’s hair lovingly. “Can’t help it.”

And Jimin’s face had the audacity to fucking blush. The other two took the opportunity to make fun of it.

“Rot in hell you fuckers.”

Jeongguk’s eyes comically widened with each breath when he realized Taehyung fucking cursed, a kind of event that Jeongguk had never expected to take place as long as he lived. He looked at him again and realized he wasn’t actually nervous, there was room for them to laugh it off. Jeongguk huffed and they all broke into chaos. 

͓

After 11 years of Jimin’s career, he had come to accept that a teacher’s endless workload was part of his job. Being a teacher didn’t end after you go home because even then he had to check his students’ papers and essays, and leave comments about anything they can improve on or what impressed Jimin. Anything that could motivate his students. Then he had to grade them. There was always a huge pile of paperwork and an impending deadline. Then he had to make his lesson plan, come up with ideas that would make his class interactive and fun so his students would take an interest, and then submit it in two weeks. Not to mention he was behind on some paperwork. 

The first couple of years of his teaching career were the hardest. He had cried while grading a pile of exam papers of six classes that he had to submit the next day. He had pulled all-nighters, sacrificed time with friends and family, and Jimin felt that he was starting to burn out. He had considered quitting because he just felt like he couldn’t keep up with that pace, with that kind of lifestyle but he thought maybe he was doing something wrong. So Jimin made some changes in his schedule and he was happy when it worked out.

The only reason it felt so grueling was that he was stressing himself too much, always thinking that he couldn’t do this or that, that he was an ineffective teacher, and that his students hated him. When he stopped thinking that way everything became easier. He was enjoying his job and his class was thriving and learning more. But even after all that, he didn’t think he could get used to the stress and pressure that came with being a teacher.

Jimin glared at the mountain of periodical exam papers on the desk from his chair. Jimin usually didn’t take work home since he had all the time to do these in school but there were a few times where he’d lack time because of too much workload. 

As a teacher, he was currently at one of the busiest times of the year— mid-year exams. He had to take home a stack of test papers that he had to grade and compute grades that he had to submit in a week’s time. Jimin spent 60 hours a week in school and the time he sometimes spent at home wasn't included in the equation. 

Teaching is extremely draining not to mention time-consuming but as a teacher that cared about his students, it was nothing. The tiredness he felt would easily dissipate when he saw his students raising their hands enthusiastically and participating lively in their discussion. Or when they would run to him and tell him that they researched more about the story discussed last week because they enjoyed it. Thinking about his students seemed to magically reduce his headache as he marked the umpteenth paper of the night.

Jimin was happy to see that most of his students got good marks in his subject. It made Jimin proud and although his heart broke for those that didn’t pass the exam, he would make sure to let them know that their efforts were appreciated. He never belittles his students, he knew that each of them was unique and special and that everyone had potential.

Jimin dropped the novelty pen he had been using to mark the papers, chinking on the table. He stretched his sore back backward, wiggled his sore butt, and cracked his knuckles. His fingers were numb. Oh, to write without his hands. He rubbed the sleepiness off his eyes but a yawn escaped his mouth at the same time. 

He grabbed his phone from the side of the table to check the time. A quarter past midnight. It was late. He was about to stand and get himself some water because he was dehydrated when his phone dinged. Jimin swiped his phone up to check what the notification was and his lips slowly curled up into a smile when he saw it.

From: Jeongguk

u still up pretty? :)

It was not a surprise to receive messages from Jeongguk. Lately, the two of them had been texting non-stop. Jeongguk literally sent anything from photos of his cute dog that had fluffy and cotton-like hair, Chuchu. The stuff he found on the internet that he thought was funny just so they could laugh together about it. Or send him those threads about a murder story just so the two of them could send each other theories.

But messages like this would always feel like it was the first time he was receiving them. Jimin champed on the side of his bottom lip to stop himself from grinning too widely. He was sure his heart seriously just fluttered. 

Inhale. 

Exhale.

To: Jeongguk

Yeah. Still not done marking papers :( what about you?

From: Jeongguk

i’m thinking of you :p

[sent a sticker]

To: Jeongguk 

I’m blocking you

But in reality, Jimin was so flustered that he slowly planted his face on the table. Amidst his dilemma, he failed to notice the continuous dinging of his phone. By the time the omega removed his face from being attached to the table, his face was red from breathlessness and well… the dinosaurs in his stomach. Butterflies just wouldn’t do his feelings justice. Jimin considered not replying to Jeongguk for the sake of his heart but he couldn’t not reply. He blamed it on his wolf. 

From: Jeongguk

don’t! 

i’m serious tho

did i scare u off? :( i hope not

hey pretty

chicky:(

To: Jeongguk

Hey, I fell asleep.

Chicky?

From: Jeongguk

that’s you. it’s cute right x)

To: Jeongguk

That was a cute one! 

From: Jeongguk 

should i start calling u chicky then? 

To: Jeongguk 

Don’t you dare >:(

Jimin didn’t realize he had been texting with Jeongguk for more than 30 minutes but he was glad, their conversation was nonsense but it made him smile, lessen his tiredness.

To: Jeongguk

I hope you didn’t skip your dinner. This week is a busy one. Can’t afford to get sick now. Good night Jeongguk zz

 

As soon as he hit send he regretted his whole existence, he cringed so bad while reading his message. He groaned and threw his phone forcefully not caring that it probably cracked, ignoring the incessant dinging that followed.

͓

Jeongguk walked in with such handsomeness gracing him that every pair of eyes that followed him would agree without wasting a breath. 

Teachers from various departments had their eyes set in Jeongguk’s direction. Even students were harboring huge crushes on him. Jimin couldn’t help but compare him to a character that tore himself out of some slow-burn manga’s page. 

Jimin knew he was pretty and charming too. He was aware of how he turned heads whenever he walked by. He knew he was a badass bitch who could attract many alphas but he couldn't help but get insecure when there were many omegas who were better than him, could give Jeongguk more than he could, who were more deserving than him.

It didn’t help that Jeongguk had been staying with the IT department. Jeongguk didn’t have much workload on him, and the IT department had always lacked decent teachers, so Jeongguk’s willingness to help everyone was a blessing for the department. But work was work so it was fine. Jimin could only get a glimpse of the alpha when he’d pass by the room where Jeongguk was in and the alpha never failed to wave at him with a huge smile on his face, Jimin’s heart fluttering when he’d smell the spike in Jeongguk’s scent when he saw the omega. 

But that didn't quell the fear that grew in his chest.  

He hated how his heart would throb in his chest whenever he saw an omega getting too close to his alpha. He hated how his chest tightened every time he saw Jeongguk smiling with a colleague and seemed to be having fun and he couldn’t help but think that the alpha would change his mind and abandon him which was unfair to Jeongguk because he had shown nothing to make Jimin feel that but Jimin did anyway. He hated feeling like this, hated himself more. He didn’t own Jeongguk and the alpha didn’t owe him anything. Jeongguk could talk, smile, and hang out with everyone he wanted to. Jimin had no problems with that. The problem was Jimin himself.

He thought he was getting better, that he was healing but perhaps old scars take more time to heal, or maybe he was living an illusion.

But he kept that to himself, he didn’t want Jeongguk to know. He was afraid the alpha would get tired of him and all of his endless bullshit. He knew how easily replaceable he was. 

“You okay? You seem… off.” Jeongguk had asked while they walked to the parking lot. Taehyung went home first so it was just the two of them.

“Yeah, just uh… tired.” Jeongguk seemed unconvinced but he didn’t pry, he just ran his knuckles on the omega’s cheek then petted the back of his head. Jimin leaned into the touch, all his worries dissipating for a while. The gesture was so sweet and caring for Jimin that it was enough to make him bawl on his knees. 

“Get your beauty rest later, chicky .” 

“Hey!” Jimin flushed and pinched the alpha’s side. Jeongguk laughed while rubbing at the sore skin.

 

They walked down in opposite directions to their homes. The flashes of lights coming from buildings and cars that passed Jimin were faster than the torrent of thoughts in his mind, so it was easy for him to get lost in the scenery. Everything passed on both sides of him as the car sped around the stranded road, but the stars seemed to move and pass at an exceptionally slow rate. They were leisurely twinkling in front of Jimin’s eyes, reminding him of his favorite pair of eyes that he thinks are capable of holding a thousand galaxies within them. 

͓

Stressed. 

Jimin was stressed. He still wasn’t done computing his students’ grades and he had to submit them tomorrow. There were some changes in the school schedule and everything was moved a lot earlier so he was in a rush, now falling behind two pieces of paperwork. And Jimin didn’t work well under pressure. He was reminded of his college days where he would procrastinate and then when the deadline was near he would cram, and cramming was chaos. 

He was on his desk encoding his students’ grades, getting their report cards ready. He was about to smash his damn laptop because it always chose to get messed up when Jimin needed it to work well the most when a faint orange smell reached his nose. His head snapped up so quickly he thought he’d heard a few bones crack.

Jimin hadn’t seen the alpha for almost a whole day and it made his wolf anxious. Jimin was mortified when he initially realized that his omega recognized Jeongguk as his alpha. Jeongguk was not his mate but his omega would want, mine, want, mine whenever he saw Jeongguk. 

He had even tried to ignore Jeongguk for a whole day so he could see if it was just his mind fucking with him just for his wolf to prove him wrong. Jimin's wolf wanted Jeongguk. Jimin couldn’t deny it any longer. His wolf was a part of him after all, and yes, a part of him wanted Jeongguk all for himself.

Jimin wanted to run to Jeongguk and wrap his arms around him and drown in his scent, but he kept his ass glued to his seat and just watched the alpha walk in with Ona. She was an omega teacher from the IT Department and the head as well. She might be young, but she worked her way up the ladders of success rather than being fed with a silver spoon.

They were carrying the modules they printed that would be used for the last semester. Since it was a public school, not every student could afford the books so to make sure everyone got them, the school offered the students who are less fortunate a ring-bound photocopy of books. 

The long brown-haired omega was carrying a pile of books that Jeongguk took from her hands, Jimin didn’t miss the way she tucked her hair in her ears, a faint blush crept on her cheeks at the gesture and the smile that Jeongguk threw her way when she thanked him. 

The thing was, Jeongguk was oblivious. He never overanalyzed anything. Even if it was painfully obvious that someone was hitting on him, he’d still take it as a friendly gesture.

Jimin was so deep in his thought that he hadn't noticed Jeongguk come up to him.

"Why're you frowning like that chicky?" If it were any other day, Jimin would’ve pinched his nipples for that.

"Have lunch with me?" Jimin's bottom lip was jutted out, and he didn't miss the way Jeongguk's eyes went from his eyes down to his lips and then back to his eyes. 

Jeongguk literally cooed at him, poking his cheeks and Jimin almost whined. "I can't today, I still need to print out more modules." 

The omega pouted even more. 

"I'll make it up to you—"

"Teacher Jeon, let's go? Sir Moon is calling for us." 

"I gotta go. See you later chicky!" Jeongguk winked at him before being dragged by Ona, her firm hold on the alpha's arm making Jimin's wolf whimper. 

Their laughter echoed in the empty hallway as they disappeared from the room. The tightness in Jimin's chest made it hard to breathe. 

͓

Jimin was sitting at his desk, rubbing at the juice stain that got splashed on his white and slightly crumpled dress shirt. It was his fault for being so clumsy but still, this stupid grape juice chose to get spilled on Jimin the day he decided to wear white. Fantastic. 

Jimin had made Jeongguk a bento box with some bibimbap, rolled omelets, and a ready-to-drink juice. One for him and for the alpha. Jeongguk didn't mean to skip meals, but when he got too busy, he forgot to eat. Jimin always made sure to remind him.

When the stain wouldn't come off no matter how hard he'd rub at the fabric— it just worsened it to be frank— Jimin got up in his seat, picked up the bento box and tumbler, and sauntered to the IT Department, greeting everyone he came across with politely. 

He was a pretty decent cook but it was his first time making a bento box for someone. Jimin enjoyed it a lot, decorating the two pieces of sushi and making them into cute smiley faces, not forgetting to slip a note that said: Eat well Jeongguk! with a tiny heart next to it. He was satisfied with the outcome, Jimin just worried that his cooking wasn't to Jeongguk's taste, his grip on the mint green container tightening. 

His anxiety grew more as he reached the room, it was a little bit past lunchtime so it was quiet because classes had resumed and the students were back at their respective classrooms.

Just before he entered the room, he heard laughter and caught the smell of orange and bergamot. 

Ona.

Jimin peeked at the open door and saw the two of them, their backs facing Jimin. They were eating, although he couldn’t tell what exactly, he saw Ona put some meat on Jeongguk's plate. The alpha grinned. He looked at the bento box he had in his hands and dug his nails on the hard material of it. 

Useless.

He walked away before the tears that had collected in his eyes could fall.

Jimin couldn't focus after that, the sound of their tinkling laughter the only sound he could hear in his head. The sound was deafening, like a pointy nail scratching the surface of a blackboard. 

He knew it meant nothing, that it was simply Jeongguk getting along with their colleagues, and just because Jimin couldn’t do the same didn’t mean he had to put malice on what he saw. Ona liked Jeongguk and that much was obvious but Jeongguk didn’t feel the same. Jimin knew that but unfortunately, he couldn’t get that through his thick dumb head. 

Jimin’s omega kept telling him that Ona was a threat, his omega was restless. Ona was young, beautiful, and healthy

She can give Jeongguk pups.

She can give Jeongguk pups.

She can give Jeongguk pups.

You can’t.

He'll leave you for someone else.

You're not worthy of his love.

You'll only make him suffer.

Give up. 

Leave him before he does. 

He cupped his face and rested his elbows on the desk, deep in thought. With his odd break time between his classes, he was left alone in the English department. The silence was a perfect time for the dark side of his head to speak louder than ever. One of the loudest sentences was that Jeongguk would get tired of him eventually, if not soon enough.

That was the only reasonable end Jimin could see, because his insecurities were strong enough to restrict him from any kind of happiness, especially in the field of love. Even though Teacher Nam spit shit all the time, some of the shit meant more than she realized sometimes. She was right in a way, he was incapable of making someone happy, Jeongguk deserved someone who could make him happy, promise him a family, and value him more than Jimin does. 

Jimin hissed in pain. He immediately fished out his phone from his pocket to check his right ear that he pinched too hard and realized he drew out a skin hard enough to draw blood anytime soon. He met his eyes through the reflection. At least he looked saner that he was inside his head. 

͓

"You skipped lunch, chicky?" Jeongguk asked, concerned, pointing at the bento box that was lying on top of his table with the array of his stuff. The alpha looked tired, the bags under his eyes could attest to how hard he worked. He probably hadn’t gotten much sleep. Nevertheless, he still looked as breathtaking as ever with his brown hair that was a bit messy and huge eyes that held the universe.

Jimin looked straight into his eyes and saw nothing but fondness and adoration staring right back at him. He wondered if he looked at the other omegas like this too. Did his eyes twinkle like that too?

“No,” he said harsher than he had meant to sound. The alpha flinched at his tone, blinking at him confused. “I- sorry. I’m just…” he sighed, rubbing his hand on his face.

“Tired? Wanna go home?” 

Jimin nodded just so he wouldn’t have to explain why he was like this.

 

The silence in Jeongguk’s car was uncomfortable for the first time. The tension between them was palpable that Jimin almost choked at the strong distress of both their scents. The alpha kept tapping his fingers on the steering wheel while gnawing on his lips.

When they finally reached Jimin’s house, none of them moved an inch, they just sat in the car. Jeongguk watched Jimin while Jimin had his shoulders hung down, eyes set on his hands that were fiddling with the handle of the bento box. He heard Jeongguk mumble something but it wasn’t clear.

“Is that lunch box for me? Did you make it...for me?” Jeongguk asked, he sounded so confused but moved at the same time. Only then did Jimin realize that the note he had written with Jeongguk’s name on it was peeking out of the box. 

“It doesn’t matter,” he replied, hugging the box as if that would protect him.

“It does. Why didn’t you give it to me? I’m sure what you made was awesome.” Jeongguk pouted and he was genuinely upset as if he was looking forward to eating Jimin’s cooking. Jeongguk reached for Jimin, probably to pet his head but the omega recoiled from his touch. The car was filled with the sourness of orange.

“Let’s stop this. Let’s s-stop seeing each other,” Jimin tried to say it without seeming unaffected, but the way his voice faltered betrayed him.

“W-what? Why? Did I- did I do something wrong?” Jeongguk paled, he hesitated at first but he reached for Jimin’s trembling hands. “Was I too pushy? Did I do anything that hurt you or offended you in any way? I’m so sorry.”

This was exactly why Jimin wanted them to stop. Jeongguk was no saint, but he was practically an angel. A broken and useless omega like Jimin didn’t deserve an alpha like him. He was too good for him. And he felt ashamed, for rejecting him for the second time and even more ashamed that the alpha had to beg for him when it should be the other way around.

“N-no, you didn’t. It’s not your fault.” 

“Look at me Jimin, please?” Jeongguk’s voice was like a melody, drawing him in and calming his nerves but not enough to stop his shaking and the welling of tears from his eyes. Nonetheless, Jimin acquiesced. “Now, tell me what’s wrong. I’ll listen, you can be honest with me.” Jeongguk said softly and the sincerity in his words made Jimin want to tell him everything but of course, he wouldn’t.

“I just… I d-don’t deserve you.” 

Jimin felt a little lighter but ten times heavier than before.

“What? Please stop thinking like that. It b-breaks my heart.”

“Y-you’re too good for me. There are a lot of o-other omegas out there who are much much better than me. I don’t deserve you. I’m- I’m sorry.”  

“I don’t want other omegas. Isn’t it clear enough that I want you? Jimin, I want this to work—” 

“It won’t work! You know I can’t have pups! I can’t make you happy. I don’t want to h-hold you back. I don’t— don’t want to punish you with a life without pups I- don’t want that life for you.” 

“But how about what I want? I don’t want you for that, and just because you can’t have pups doesn’t mean you’re any less. You’re an amazing omega no matter what. Whatever those people said about you wasn't true, not even a bit.” Jeongguk frowned, he leaned forward and wiped the tears that escaped the omega’s eyes. 

Jimin stayed silent, and Jeongguk took it upon himself to get the words into his head. 

“Your past doesn’t define you, you’re more than just an omega who can’t have pups. The fact that you exist is more than enough. Jimin, I wish you could see yourself through my eyes because maybe then you’d realize how lovely you are. Just so you know how happy you make me, and everyone else around you. Do you know how much you inspire your students? I don’t think you know how much the people around you treasure you. Jimin, I’m here because I want this.” 

“Jeongguk...” Jimin didn’t think he deserved those words when all he did was hurt Jeongguk. How could the alpha not be tired of him yet?

“If you really want to stop this then I understand. Just tell me.” There was no bite to it, Jeongguk was earnest.

“No! I- I- w-want you.” Jimin had managed to choke out, biting his lips at the sudden confession.

“I want you too. Y-you drive me crazy. Do you know how much I like you? Hm?” Jeongguk asked though the question was rhetorical. He was talking his way into calming the sobbing omega. “Believe it or not, I wake up every day and think of you and your cute pudgy cheeks,” he poked Jimin’s left cheek with his thumb. “And your beak,” he laughed, grazing his thumb against Jimin’s plush lips. “I get so mad when alphas stare at you, makes me wanna gouge their eyes out. And when they get too close I feel like I’m gonna lose my mind. You’re the prettiest omega. Sometimes I can’t believe you’re real. You’re the only one for me,” he pressed a soft kiss on the crown of Jimin’s head. 

“Guk...” Jimin whined, embarrassed. “Y-you’re just so perfect. S-so sure of yourself. You’re strong—admirable. Jeongguk I’m just me.”

“And you are amazing.” 

"I— Jeongguk..."

“I’m not…perfect. There are times where I don’t want you looking at my face because what if you think I’m ugly and you just— run off? What if you think I smell like shit? What if you think I’m an obnoxious alpha? What if you end up liking someone else? I got my insecurities too, I feel scared too, but don’t we all? Whenever I feel like that I just— look around and then I realize that we are all imperfect but even then we make someone smile by simply existing. Isn’t that enough reason to appreciate ourselves?”

Jeongguk cupped Jimin’s face gently in his hands, the proximity made Jimin’s breath hitch and his head spin. 

“I know it’s gonna be hard for us, especially on you but I want this— so much. I know it’s normal for you to want to run away from the things that scare you or make you feel insecure. I know there’s always this voice in your head nagging you and telling you you’re not good enough but it’s not true. And if you ever feel like you want to run away, don’t. Face it, it’s not easy but I know you’re strong and you can do it. If you ever need anything, remember I’ll always be here for you. I’ll hold your hand, remember?”

There was no guarantee that they would work out or end up in the way Jimin wanted it so badly to. Something inside Jimin was screaming that he shouldn’t be doing whatever he was doing, he shouldn’t be trusting anyone, let alone allow someone to see him and hear his mind. Because every time Jimin opened his heart, he got stabbed. 

Jeongguk could break his heart or he could love Jimin as if his heart had never been broken in the first place. Jimin could get his wings broken and perhaps this time he wouldn’t be able to fly anymore. But he was willing to risk it all and Jimin could finally say that as he laced his fingers through Jeongguk and held his hand as tight as he could. 

With Jeongguk holding him in his arms, he realized he had nothing to be afraid of.

 

Since that day, Jimin had been making Jeongguk lunchboxes, and he tried to be as creative as he could, going as far as making the kimbap look like Jeongguk’s dog Chuchu. Jeongguk was so pleased and amazed by the kimbap that he literally thanked and praised Jimin all day. If Jeongguk had a tail he would’ve wagged his tail until it fell off.

When Jimin felt like the lunch box was still lacking something, he then realized that maybe he should put notes like the first time so he did. Jimin knew that the alpha was stressed with work lately especially since the IT Department had been relying on him a lot, not to mention his workloads that he had to attend to too. Thus, he decided to go with simple notes wishing him a good day or reminding him to eat his lunch.

Then he upgraded to pick-up lines which he knew were old but they were effective and funny during his time so why not? He started with the hilariously cheesy ones:

Are you sure you’re not tired? You’ve been running through my mind all day.

Is there an airport nearby or is it my heart taking off every time you smile?

Did it hurt? When you fell from heaven?

Is your name Google? Because you have everything I’ve been searching for.

There must be something wrong with my eyes, I can’t take them off you.

These gained him a huge bunny-like smile from Jeongguk. The alpha was so disarming and Jimin was sure he wasn’t even aware and that just added to his endless charms. 

Are you https? 

‘Cause without you I'm just ://

This particular pick up line made Jeongguk crack up. He laughed so hard he almost fell out of his office chair when it swiveled way too hard (thank fuck Jeongguk was able to support with his elbows himself before that happened). He probably laughed for a good 10 minutes and apologized later to the heavily disturbed people in the room and one heavily mortified omega aka Jimin.

Jeongguk didn’t let him live it down again after that.

 

Was it embarrassing? Yes.

Did he want the ground to swallow him up? Yes.

But was it worth it? It definitely was.

Chapter Text

Jimin was eternally grateful for Jeongguk always encouraging him from his side, but never pushing him out of his comfort zone. 

He would encourage Jimin to try new things such as going out more. Jeongguk said he understands that Jimin liked being in the comfort of his home but he shouldn’t lock himself up and try to enjoy the world outside, that he couldn’t hide forever. How ironic, right? Jimin always told his students about it.

So today, Jeongguk dragged Jimin out for ice cream just around Jimin’s neighborhood. 

One step at a time.

Jeongguk waited for him at the corner of Jimin's street, and he felt like a high school girl going on his first date with his crush. 

The omega got himself chocolate chip ice cream while Jeongguk got mint choco and of course, they bickered about it. Jimin fake gagged and said it tasted like toothpaste or that cheap mouthwash at a convenience store and Jeongguk was scandalized, eyes as wide as saucers.

Jimin felt awkward at first being around so many people again and although it used to pain him when he'd see things that reminded him of his past, it didn’t bother him as much as it used to. He had accepted that things happened and that no matter how big the scar it had left in his heart, he was still happy during those times.

He had come to terms that there were people who weren’t meant to stay in his life forever, it was hard to keep people but it was okay. Life without him wasn't all that bad. He was happy and he hoped this happiness would last for a long time.

When they finished their ice creams and they were still not anywhere near Jimin’s house, they both had nothing to do. Jimin kept feeling Jeongguk’s eyes on him and he couldn’t help but laugh.

“What’s funny?” 

“You’re staring again. Do you always stare at people?”

“No, only you.” Jeongguk blurted out and Jimin enjoyed the pinkness on his cheeks that followed. “‘Cos you’re pretty.” 

Now it was Jimin’s time to blush.

“Shut up, that’s like, so cheesy. Are you in the ‘80s or something?” Jimin chided in a poor attempt to cover up for his racing heart.

“It’s the truth. Don’t you know you’re so pretty? Pretty pretty, the prettiest omega.” Jeongguk continued and Jimin had no idea when but the alpha was now in front of him, walking backward, brown doe eyes staring right into him. “ Prettiest .”

“I think you’re just buttering me up.” Jimin jested, eyes narrowed and nose scrunched up. “If you think that’s gonna earn you some points then you’re wrong .”

“Oops.” 

Jimin smacked the alpha’s arm, both of them laughing at their own absurdity.

Small quarrels were just a playful thing between them that came as easily as flirting. He felt genuine happiness whenever he spent time with Jeongguk, and he didn’t stop himself like before.

Jeongguk was capable of making him feel a lot of foreign emotions. Even though Jimin was afraid that one day all of these would be snatched from him, he didn’t want to care about it. 

͓

Jimin would never admit it but he didn’t want to be away from the alpha. He was too tired to do anything, but he didn’t want to bore Jeongguk too much, so his lame ass suggested they watch a movie, the only thing Jimin knew how to do without messing up. Jeongguk agreed with the biggest grin Jimin couldn’t help but compare him to a puppy.

The omega slouched at the plush sofa living room. Jeongguk let him pick a movie, and Jimin hesitated but picked Coco nonetheless, his favorite. Some might think that cartoons were just for kids but the omega begged to disagree. He loved how these films taught him and reminded him of something he already knew. 

They were a few inches apart at first, and Jeongguk was very stiff. His hands were in between his legs and he kept on chewing on his lips.

“Will you relax?” Jimin laughed.

“Oh.”

“C’mere,” Jimin patted the space beside him. Jeongguk did reluctantly though shyly.

Jimin’s omega purred, chest rumbling in satisfaction when a familiar fresh orange scent hit his nose. It was too late when he realized that he did it out loud, hiding his face in his sweater paws. Jeongguk snickered at his reaction. 

They gradually became closer as the movie continued. Halfway through the movie, Jimin let his head slowly fall on Jeongguk's shoulder. The alpha moved his arm to readjust his position so he could run his long fingers through Jimin’s hair, which made Jimin sleepier than ever. 

Jimin wasn’t really focused on the movie, just watching as the characters moved around and sang but when it was near the ending part, tears slid down Jimin’s face. It was inevitable that he would cry even if he had lost count of how many times he had watched this movie.

Jimin watched as Mama Coco carefully pulled a strip of paper from what seemed like a scrapbook that looked as old as her and languidly said: “I kept his letters.”

That particular scene never failed to tug a string in Jimin’s heart, and before he knew it, tears were flowing faster in his face and he was starting to wet Jeongguk’s shirt, but the alpha let him, petting his head, a gesture Jimin had come to love.

Jimin thought it was sad how there was so much time wasted on regrets, hatred, grudges, believing in things that weren't true. That time could have been spent loving and living beautiful memories, but then again, it was in people's nature to believe in the worst rather than the best. 

The film also teaches about the power and importance of forgiveness. Imelda, Coco’s mother, still couldn’t cross the gold-paved bridge because she still had a lot of hatred and pain for her husband. It reminded Jimin that by choosing not to forgive, he was trapping and hurting himself too. And he was hurting other people in the process too. He hasn't forgiven those who have hurt him and he hasn't forgiven himself for the things he caused that hurt other people. 

He missed his family too, and no matter how much they have scarred his heart he still loved them with all his heart, and there would always be part of him that would long for them. That was something that would never change.  

In the blur of tears, Jimin failed to notice the glossiness of the eyes of the alpha beside him. Jimin looked at Jeongguk through his wet lashes.

“A-are you okay?” he sniffled as the credits rolled on in the background. 

“Are you okay?” Jeongguk jested, rubbing the wetness in his eyes with his sleeve. Jimin’s lips quivered.

“‘S just... sad. Mama Coco r-remembers her dad.” Jimin mumbled.

“She does, she does,” Jeongguk replied as if he was talking to a toddler who needed reassurance that his favorite lollies would still be in the fridge the next day. Jeongguk rubbed his nose on Jimin’s cheeks making the omega purr. Jimin buried his face in the comfort that was Jeongguk’s chest.

͓

"So, are you gonna tell me anything or do you want to get in the ring first?" 

Jimin luckily had just swallowed the soup he was slurping or he would have it running from his nose like a dam. 

"What the hell Tae?" 

"You never tell me anything! I'm gonna have to fight you in the ring. If I win, you spill the tea." Taehyung wagered, throwing jabs at Jimin. 

"But I do," Jimin argued.

"No, you don't."

Jimin averted his eyes.

"See? Hah," Taehyung burst into laughter, smacking his hands onto the table catching the attention of some people in the cafeteria.

"Ugh, stop it. It's embarrassing." 

"Okay, get your gloves and get in the ring."

"Stop!" he giggled, eyes disappearing into beautiful crescents. 

"Hi, ahjumma!" Taehyung waved his hand enthusiastically at Mrs. Gong, a huge smile plastered on her face.

"How are you, kids? I brought you something for dessert." Mrs. Gong placed two small plates with chocolate brownies on them, grinning at them from ear to ear. She was wearing her uniform with a dark green apron on top of it, her hair was in a bun. She looked tired from all the work she had to do but she was energetic as always.

"Ah, I'm so full! Why did you only come now ahjumma!" Jimin whined, caressing his already bloated stomach but diving right into the brownies anyway. 

I'm so full!” Taehyung mimicked playfully.

“Tae! Can you not judge me for a minute?”

Taehyung and Mrs. Gong laughed. "Ahjumma 'ake a seat," Jimin said with a mouthful of sweets.

Mrs. Gong sat beside Taehyung, not before eyeing the place beside Jimin. "Where is Teacher Jeon?" she asked, a glint in her eyes.

"He went back to the faculty first, he had some stuff to submit today," Jimin explained, not taking his eyes away from what he was eating. And he wished he hadn't because when he did he saw Taehyung and Mrs. Gong with shit-eating grins. 

"What?" Jimin blinked at them.

The other two just shook their heads.

"How long have you two been dating?" Mrs. Gong asked with that same caring motherly gaze. Jimin knew she didn't mean to pry, but it caught him off guard. 

"I swear to God if you even dare to deny it-" Taehyung balled his fists and squealed

"I-"

"Excuse you but you literally reek of orange !" Taehyung said indignantly, rolling his eyes.

Mrs. Gong laughed. "Cut him some slack."

Jimin bit his lips, stabbing the brownies with his chopstick.

"Thirty-four days, and one night," he admitted sheepishly.

"Wow! He even has the exact days," Taehyung cackled.

Mrs. Gong and Taehyung laughed and clapped their hands as if they were overexcited seals. Jimin couldn't help the smile that spread across his reddened face. 

They continued teasing him for a while and Jimin just let them, laughing along and enjoying the rare moment he got to spend with them. With the school year only a few months from ending, they had gotten even busier.

"Jeongguk takes good care of you." Mrs. Gong stated, more serious this time. 

"He does, yes." Warmth spread through Jimin's chest to his stomach, waking up the dinosaurs that seemed to have taken residence there lately.

"I know you do too." 

͓

Jimin always had these weird cravings, and he wouldn't be at peace if he didn't get them and today he had suddenly craved beef barbeque. Jimin told Jeongguk so, he told Jeongguk a lot, and since it was a Saturday and their work ended early, Jeongguk suggested they should get some beef at Doma. 

Although they could order take out, Jimin knew Doma had the best beef, his mouth watered at the thought of the delicious meat touching his tongue, his stomach churning at having to be at a crowded place, Jimin nodded. 

One step at a time.

 

This Korean barbeque restaurant was an urban hidden gem. Well known by locals and enjoyed by everyone with the relaxed atmosphere surrounded by rustic homey touches but still cool enough to bring in new customers with the exposed pipes and chrome accents. It helped that they had the best beef in Seoul. The people came for the food but stayed because it made them cool and at home at the same time. Hard to pass that up in the big city.

It was a really well-known place so it only made sense that it was a little bit too crowded for Jimin's liking. The waiter took their orders, plastering his customer service smile. Jimin got himself True Rib Meet, that the restaurant had tried so hard to make a pun out of, while Jeongguk ordered Bottom Sirloin Triangle. 

He almost puked way too many times because the mix of scents was extremely overwhelming, especially when he'd smell flowers he could still feel the bile rising up his throat. Most of the time he wanted to just run away and hide, but he'd look at Jeongguk and realize he had so many reasons to keep trying. He was getting better, gradually, but there were progress and Jimin was happy about it. 

"I'm proud of you, you know," Jeongguk said while waiting for their food to arrive. They were seated at the far corner where there weren't too many people so Jimin wouldn't get too overwhelmed. 

"For what?" Jimin frowned, his plush lips jutting out. 

"For being so brave." Jeongguk extended his hand and reached for Jimin's hand on top of the table, caressing Jimin’s hand which was muscle memory more than anything.

"But I-I'm not." 

"Yes, you are. Look at you, going out— going to crowded places without your beloved scent blockers, and you're doing just fine. You're trying new things— doing things I know that scare you, but you're doing so well." Jeongguk smiled, lacing their fingers together, not failing to notice how tiny Jimin's hand was. “I’m proud of you, chicky.”

Jimin couldn’t help the smile that made his eyes disappear into beautiful half-moons, squeezing Jeongguk’s hand. Jimin had wanted to say something, maybe chide Jeongguk for being a damn poet, but when he opened his goddamn mouth, his lips trembled and tears slid down his eyes. 

Fuck.

Alarmed, Jeongguk sprang up and rushed to Jimin’s side, wrapping his hand on Jimin’s waist while using the other one to thumb away on the tears on the omega’s face.

“What’s wrong? Hm?”

“‘Cos you’re so sappy!” Jimin sniffled, biting Jeongguk’s index finger when he touched his pouty lips and called it a beak. Jeongguk squawked.

“I was telling the truth. You need to know how well you’re doing because you refuse to acknowledge it. Give yourself some credit.” 

“Y-you’re still a sap.” Jimin’s voice cracked. 

“Okay, you win, I’m a sap,” Jeongguk admitted, stroking Jimin’s side. Jimin rested his head on the alpha’s shoulder. 

Crying in public was not something Jimin would ever wish to do, but he didn’t have enough strength to help himself. He was overwhelmed with the various emotions making home inside Jimin without his permission, but they made Jimin stay in his place more than making him get up and run away from everything. It was the kind that made him sing with the birds at dawn while waiting for the sun to blossom on the skyline and warm his skin. It was the kind that made him want to live.

The food arrived later than expected, but it was worth it. Jimin’s mind was blown away by savory and lusciousness. Jimin was bad at handling hot food but for the first time, he didn’t care that it would burn his mouth. He dived right into it, he practically inhaled the food. Jimin enjoyed the food so much that he forgot about table manners, his mouth a mess. He wouldn’t have known if Jeongguk didn’t laugh and told him. Jimin didn’t have much time to be embarrassed when Jeongguk leaned forward and gently dabbed the tissue on his mouth to clean the mess. 

Jimin was entranced at the tenderness in the alpha's action, and at the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled and dimples appeared on cheeks. Jimin was still staring by the time Jeongguk leaned away.

"Eat slowly, the food won’t run." Jeongguk laughed.

"O-okay." 



Their stomachs were so full after finishing their meal. No leftovers at all. They loved the food, probably way too much if the way the button of Jimin's pants was about to pop out was any indication. They stayed for a while, waiting for the food to go down while they talked about everything under the sun.

"Do you still visit Busan?" Jimin asked. 

"Yes," Jeongguk replied, sipping on his drink.

"How often?" 

"Yearly. To pay a visit to him. Sometimes to see my parents, but they're always out camping or traveling. They love camping. I told them they should just sell the house and just live in a van since they love traveling and camping much." Jeongguk laughed airily, scratching his nose cutely. 

"That's so cool! My parents are so boring. I think my dad reads newspapers all day, and my mom cleans the house way more than she has to." Jimin missed his parents. "Do you want to go to Busan this year? With uh, me?" Jimin asked hesitantly, gnawing on his plump bottom lip.

The absence of Jeongguk's word made the omega anxious that he'd crossed a line. 

"I—"

"Okay, I'd love that." 

Jimin was brimming with happiness when Jeongguk dropped him off, skipping as Jeongguk walked him to his door. The bite of the cold wind made Jimin shiver but he was enveloped by a warmth that was Jeongguk. 

"Thank you for today!" Jimin grinned, looking up at the alpha beside him.

Jeongguk kissed his forehead in lieu of an answer. Jimin blushed furiously, hiding behind his palms. Jeongguk laughed, enjoying making Jimin squirm way too much.

Why was he palpitating? Did he drink too much coffee— he didn't drink coffee today. It must've been the stupid beef.

When they reached Jimin's door, Jeongguk said his usual "see you later". Jimin, feeling exceptionally clingy, waddled to the alpha to wrap his hands around him for a hug, resting his head on Jeongguk's chest. Jeongguk kissed the crown of his head, smiling. 

"Thank you Jeongguk," Jimin said, cheeks squished on Jeongguk's sturdy chest. 

"What are you thanking me for, chicky?" Jeongguk asked, playing with the hairs on Jimin's nape.

For being patient with me.

For accepting my flaws.

For sticking with me.

For never losing hope in me.

For making me happy.

"For everything." Jimin pulled Jeongguk closer, standing on his tiptoe to nuzzle the alpha's neck. Jeongguk tensed at the sudden show of intimacy but he calmed down just as fast, cradling Jimin's head and nuzzling back.

The gesture was so intimate that they were both red in the face when they pulled away. 

"Don't get all shy on me now." Jimin teased albeit being just as affected, if not more. Jeongguk ruffled his blonde hair, fondness swimming in his eyes.

Jimin turned the doorknob, waving at Jeongguk enthusiastically. "Bye Jeongguk!" 

Jeongguk's face drained of all colors.  

Bye Jeongguk.

Bye.

I've never hated that word more.

Realization of what he just said dawned on Jimin a bit slowly. He was too caught in his happiness he forgot about everything else. Jimin didn't mind his forgetfulness that much but right now it fucked things up. Jeongguk was shaking, eyes wide. He let go of the knob and rushed to embrace Jeongguk.

"Hey, I'm sorry. I-I'm here." Jimin cupped Jeongguk's face, hearing his heart shatter when he saw Jeongguk's unfocused eyes glistening with tears. 

"Baby, I'm here. I'm sorry. I'm here. I won't go." Jimin caressed Jeongguk's face gently, running his fingers from the alpha's eyebrow to his jaw. "I'm here, alpha." 

Slowly, Jeongguk surfaced back to reality, meeting Jimin's eyes. Jeongguk lifted his hands and placed them on each side of Jimin's face. Jeongguk's hands were trembling, they were sweaty and cold. 

"I'm sorry. I'm here… here." Jimin promised, watching as a tear fell down Jeongguk's face. 

Jimin had encountered the well kept hidden part of Jeongguk for the very first time, vulnerable… and scared. The alpha always stood strong among everyone. Jeongguk, who had a smile plastered in the toughest circumstances, confidence laced in his fingertips, like he knew the solution to every problem, was choosing to show a side of him to Jimin, and Jimin was flabbergasted. 

Perhaps, Jimin had been too selfish. He had forgotten that Jeongguk was fighting with his own demons too and that perhaps Jeongguk was standing up as happy but one could be happy and still have fears. There could be times where they want to cower and hide from the cruel world.

"I'm sorry, alpha. I'm here, won't leave you. Never." Jimin nuzzled Jeongguk's cheek, hoping to calm the alpha down. Jeongguk pressed their foreheads together, his eyes were shut. 

Jimin slowly grazed his lips from Jeongguk’s soft eyelid and dared to travel south to gently kiss his cheeks. Jimin shifted on his heels to make sure Jeongguk wanted it too and took in the sight of Jeongguk's eyes fluttering open, a mix of confusion and delight evident on his features. Jimin leaned in again, their lips meeting halfway. The sensation was entirely foreign to Jimin, but damn him if he didn’t want the warmth spreading through every inch of him as they got closer to feeling each other. He didn't know what had gotten into him, but right now he just wanted to give himself to Jeongguk. Jeongguk cupped Jimin's face, and Jimin wound his arms around the alpha's neck, their foreheads touching. The brushing of their lips was sweet and innocent and it conveyed passion words could never have.

 

It was enough to return the various shades of bright colors in Jimin’s life, convincing enough for him to get rid of the last piece of his painful past from the back of his door. 

*

Children were very complicated beings. One moment they were laughing together and getting along so well and the next they were throwing punches, pulling at each other's hair. Fights were inevitable in school. Throughout his teaching career, Jimin had lost count of how many times his students had fought and had to break them apart, lecture them, and then call their parents.

But they never get less draining.

"What's wrong with you guys? Did I not tell you not to fight? We're family here, remember?" Jimin was stressed, sweat was running down his temples. 

Jimin was at the infirmary standing in front of two of his students whose faces were bandaged up. He had asked the staff to give them a few minutes so they were by themselves. Jimin had aged 10 years in the past hour.

"Don't be rude Hanbin. I'm trying to understand you both." Jimin scolded when Hanbin snorted. "Now would you explain why the hell you fought?" 

Jimin expected Kira to talk first since he had always been easy to talk to, easier than Hanbin at least, but he kept his mouth shut. Jimin looked to Hanbin, expecting, waiting for anything, sighing when there was nothing. 

"Okay, don't tell me then." Jimin scoffed, losing his patience. Reverse psychology always worked. 

"Hanbin called me a freak for having two omega parents," Kira confessed, his hands balled into fists. 

Jimin's eyes widened in shock. "What? Why did you say that Hanbin?" 

"Because it's true," he said, but the way his voice wavered made it seem like even he wasn't convinced.

"You shouldn't have said that. That is not true, and it isn't acceptable in any way." Jimin's voice was higher than usual. 

"My parents told me that an omega should only be with an alpha. Anything else is wrong." Hanbin stated.

Jimin watched the way Hanbin picked on his nails, saw the tears that raced down Kira's face. Jimin sighed, his heart breaking for his students.

"I know we have different perspectives. Our beliefs might not overlap, and that’s okay. We are all different for a reason, I know.” 

Jimin surged forward by an inch, making Hanbin look up and meet his eyes. He should see Jimin when he says the next thing that he would pin it to Hanbin’s head. 

“That doesn't mean you can just— say things like that. You have to be considerate of other people's feelings. Words aren't just words. They affect people — they can hurt and damage people. Next time you say something, think about it first. Besides, the school year’s almost ending. I don’t want you guys fighting and holding grudges against each other, not now, not ever.”

Kira and Hanbin didn’t say anything after that, not even move. Their heads were hung down as if they were too heavy to lift. Jimin didn’t push them for it wouldn’t do any of them good. Most of the time, the scolding students receive from their teachers went to one ear and out the other, but it was still important to let them know what they did was unacceptable and that they were responsible for every action they choose to make.

 

Jimin cuddled with Jeongguk for hours after that.

͓

Today was exceptionally draining for everyone in the school, especially the teachers. Everyone had gotten a good amount of scolding from the school director for one teacher’s mishaps. Give it to Teacher Nam to pull everyone down with her.

Nam didn’t really get along well with the other teachers. She’d befriend some of them, act like she loved their company, only to talk shit behind their backs. She liked to meddle with other people’s lives and spread rumors about them, which Jimin experienced first hand. She was only good with people from whom she could benefit but even then, no one ever lasted with her. Jimin never thought too deeply about it. He was aware that these kinds of people, unfortunately… exist. 

Everyone thought Nam couldn’t get any worse, but today she proved everyone wrong.

The school director had called all the faculty stuff in the middle of the first-afternoon class. To say that everyone was confused was an understatement. They entered the conference room to see Nam already there, sitting in front of the fuming director with tears trekking down her flushed face. 

When they were seated, the school director broke it to them that Nam had beaten a child to the point that the poor kid bled. Everyone gasped in shock before boiling into anger. Jimin was all but seething. Jeongguk, who was seated beside him had to blatantly scent Jimin or he’d had claw at Nam’s fucking face.

Their school might be poor and old, but they cared and prioritized their students’ health and well-being more than anything else and Nam’s actions crossed so many fucking lines. Nam was humiliated in front of everyone which was so unlike the school director, but it wasn’t only Jimin but rather all the faculty knew that the bitch deserved it. She was crying all the while and Jimin just wanted to fucking rip her face off, but Jeongguk’s hold on him anchored him. 

In the end, Nam was fired and the director had said she’d file a report to the Division’s Office so they could have Nam blacklisted. The director put a warning to keep everyone from pulling shit like Nam, and after a few more minutes, they were dismissed.

As soon as they were out of the suffocating conference room, he hugged Jeongguk from behind, burying his nose on his back, relishing in the alpha's calming scent.

͓

Jimin had just wanted to dive into his bed and hide behind his duvet and sleep the tiring day off, but just as he was about to turn the lights off, his doorbell rang. Jimin blanched when he saw his father, mom, and sister on the intercom. The first thing he could think of was how did they know about his residence? But then he recalled that he had always lived there. 

He had planned to visit his family when he and Jeongguk would go to Busan for Christmas break. 

Things don't always go as planned.

Jimin had let them in. 

"What's gotten you here so late?" he asked while drying his hair with a towel.

"Is that how you greet your family now?" Jimin's father jested, enveloping him in a hug as if things didn't fall apart, as if they hadn't seen each other in years. Nevertheless, he still hugged him back, his throat suddenly dry. Bongcha rushed to hug him too as soon as his father let him go, smile about to rip her youthful face. When he wrapped his arms around though he noticed that her hair was longer, reaching her waist. She had always kept it shoulder length. 

"Your hair's longer," Jimin said when they pulled apart. 

"Yeah, I'm still hot though," she tucked her hair in her ears. As confident as ever.

Jimin laughed. "What changed?"

"Everything," Bongcha replied, flipping her hair and walking past Jimin to follow his dad who had started wandering the house. 

Jimin bowed down to his mom and managed a small smile because he had assumed his mom wouldn't want anything from him anyway. Jimin was about to turn around when his mom caught his wrist and pulled him into a hug. Jimin didn't believe that time could stop, but at that moment it did.

Jimin didn’t know how to save himself from an unpredictable situation, so he looked for his family to lead wherever they wanted to go. 

 

They ordered online for kimchi and some stew. Jimin had run out of stock last week, if he knew they would arrive today he would've gone to the market to get some groceries and restock.

"What brought you here?" Jimin broke the silence, chewing on a dumpling.

"Are we not allowed to visit you now?" Bongcha rolled her eyes playfully. 

You never did.

"That's not what I meant." 

After that, it was quiet again. Jimin took that time to look at the three of them. His parents were still the same, if not older. A lot could change in four years. His mom's hair was shorter, a pixie cut that Jimin thought was popular with the elders these days. Easier to manage. Jimin never thought she'd go for that look but it suited her because his mom was beautiful. His dad on the other hand still had the same taper fade and slicked-back hair, but it had turned all gray, a prominent sign of his age, but he never lost his charm. Bongcha's now long hair had bangs too, and it's red, a contrast to her natural jet black hair.

"Why is your house so messy, Jimin? And your pantry is empty. Do you even eat? What do you do?" There was the tone that Jimin hated the most that his mom so often used on him. The tone that made Jimin feel so small.

"I've been busy with work, but don't worry, I'll get to cleaning and shopping as soon as I have time—"

She scoffed. “You’re so busy that you can’t even find time to visit your family? You can’t even care enough to come to your mother’s birthday huh?”

“Mom—”

"But you have time to flirt, don't you?"

Jimin's father cleared his throat, a clear warning for them to stop. Jimin's stomach was twisted into knots, and he could feel the bile rising in his throat. He clenched his jaw, dropping his utensils on his untouched plate of food. 

"I'm old enough to do what I want to do,” Jimin said, trying to be as polite and calm as he could. ”Besides, I know what I'm doing. I’m not the child you think I am."

"You said that before, but what happened? You're divorced now, aren't you?" 

"Shinyoung." Jimin's dad slapped his palms on the table. “Can we please, for once, eat in peace like a normal family?”

"Haven't you learned your lessons yet? That alpha will leave you too.” Jimin's mom was not yet done. Jimin’s mom had gotten tired of him but not at berating him. “You may think he's different, that he's the one,  but he's not. Get that through your thick head Jimin!" 

Everything was still the same. The same faces, same situations. Jimin's mom tearing a strip off him, his dad intervening but not enough to make it stop, and his sister just staring at them all, brave enough to say something but didn’t care enough to do so. 

Nothing changed, except Jimin was not the same Jimin he was before. He wasn't the scared praise-hungry omega he was before, always wanting to be the perfect son, wanting to get the approval he so badly craved from his parents, always at their every beck and calls.

"Leave him, Jimin. You know what I'm saying is only the truth! No one would take an omega like you seriously. This is for your own sake. Why can't you just be like your sister?" She screamed, and the lines on her forehead deep from the way she frowned.

Amidst the shakiness of his hands and the blur of his tears, Jimin spoke up.  

"No.”

Every pair of eyes turned in his direction.

“You don't know anything, mom. Do y-you even know me?”

Jimin waited for a beat to watch his mother change her expression from the disrespect he was about to throw. 

“This is what you're good at, tearing me down, making sure I know that I will never be good enough. Honestly, you did a pretty good job at that, mom. Do you know why I don't come home anymore? Because I don’t want to see you. I don’t want to see my own family.” 

“I don’t have time for this Park Jimin-” her mom yelled but Jimin cut her off without a care.

“I feel so… unloved, so unaccepted like I don’t belong. I-I grew up thinking that maybe the reason why you bought Bongcha more toys was that she was better than me at school, always making you proud with her achievements while I only give you trouble. Maybe the reason why you always bought Bongcha new stuff and gave me her old ones was because we didn't have much money, not because she was your favorite.”

"I thought that maybe the reason why you never read me bedtime stories was because you were too tired because Bongcha took too long to fall asleep. That maybe the reason why you always sided with her when we'd get into a petty fight was because it was always my fault, not because you loved h-her more." Jimin sniffled, gripping the fabric of his sweats until his knuckles turned white. "That— that maybe you only combed her hair because she's a girl and I'm not. You always let her do whatever she wants, gave her whatever she wanted in an instant while I had to get perfect scores.”

“That’s not true,” his mom said through gritted teeth.

“It is mom. You know it is.” Jimin sobbed.

“Jimin—”

"I thought maybe if I stopped giving you trouble and started getting good grades then you'll pat my head or rub my back too,” Jimin said after a moment of silence, averting the subject. 

“I thought if I did whatever Bongcha was doing then, you'd love me too. But you didn't. Y-you stayed the same. Always had a soft spot for Bongcha while I had it rough. And when I married him, you never hated me more. You made sure I- we- had it clear. When you found out I was infertile, you said I was good as—as... dead. I was useless to you, can't even give you what you want, can’t even give my mate a family. Did— d-did y-you know how much that hurt m-me mom? It would've hurt less if you just… killed me then.”

Jimin stared and stared at his mom dead straight in her eyes, needing an answer more than ever. For once, he would like her to utter the words ‘that’s not true’, but maybe he had his hopes too high in the sky. 

"I've always wondered… you're my mom, so w-why can't I run to you when my heart h-hurts? Because you were the very first person who broke it, mom." Jimin sobbed. "Do you— do you know how happy I was when you'd bake me cinnamon rolls?" he laughed, more tears spilling from his eyes. "I was so happy sometimes I couldn't even sleep. I'd even hug the rolls you made me to sleep 'cos, wow, maybe mom loves me. S-she knows… she knows m-my favorite food.”

Jimin thought he heard his mother say that she loved him because he was her son, but was that even possible? For his mom to love him?

"It's okay, I had dad. He bought me toys, patted my back when I cried, kissed my forehead when I was upset, brought me to parks when I wouldn't stop sulking, sang me to sleep. Even though sometimes he would make me cry, he was always there for me. He made sure I knew how much he loved me and how he cared for me. B-but I w-wanted you to love— l-love me too, mom." 

"Jimin, everything I did- it was all out of love." Jimin's mom croaked out, her face was red from being rubbed raw. Jimin just listened.

With trembling hands, Jimin wiped his tears with the back of his hands. He looked up to see his mom's face wet with tears, the disapproving frown from her face was gone, replaced with sadness. Bongcha was crying too, her eyes as red as her lipstick. Jimin's dad on the other had his head hanging down. The room reeked of shame, sadness, and guilt.

"Jimin… I'm sorry…" Bongcha cried, her makeup running down her face. 

"I used to be so jealous of you. You're beautiful, strong, smart. You're independent, you've always known what you wanted in life. Most of all, you have mom's love. Do you remember when dad bought me a new coloring book? But because you liked it so much you cried the whole day so I was… forced to give it up for you… because mom said I should know how to give. So I did, but when it was me who wanted to borrow your new 64 crayon set m-mom she- told me that I shouldn’t be too greedy.” Jimin laughed amidst his tears. “And y-you're— fertile. I was so mad at you… because why couldn't it be me? I'd be a better omega, I would appreciate it more than you’ll ever do.” 

“I’m so sorry… my baby brother…” 

“I hated you— I think I know that now, and I know you hate me too. Someone told me it must be nice to have a sister to look out for me, but you didn’t. You always called me dumb whenever I got low marks or when I couldn’t find the stuff you asked me to look for. You still call me dumb even if you’re joking, and because you called me that like— every day, I believed it too. You always yelled at me, got mad at me for no reason so I was always afraid of making a mistake. I- thought you’re like mom, you’re just like mom. So when you suddenly became so… nice I couldn’t accept it. Maybe you pitied me too.” 

“I- I don’t hate you. You’re my baby brother and I never say it and I know I’ve been the worst sister ever, but believe me when I say I love y-you.” 

 Jimin looked up to her with pure surprise adorning his features for the first time. Bongcha went on. 

“I love you so much. I’m so sorry I was so harsh on you… you’re not dumb- you’re not. I took care of you the only way I knew how to. I’m sorry.” 

Bongcha looked into Jimin’s eyes, adding more weight to her words. 

“You know how some people treat omegas sometimes and I didn’t want anyone to hurt you or degrade you in any way, b-but it was me who did all that. I’m so sorry…” Bongcha hiccupped. “I regret everything. I regret all the things I did every time. I wish we can still be young so I can coddle you like you deserve, bring cinnamon rolls from your favorite bakery like you asked me every time I’d go out, but I never did— I’m so h-h-horrible. I’m sorry.” 

“It’s okay, I- I forgive you. I don't feel that way anymore." Jimin meant it.

Jimin knew his sister cared for him in her own way. Just like how she gave Jimin her 64 crayon set, saying she didn’t want them anymore which Jimin knew wasn’t true because Bongcha was a hoarder. Or how she would sneak into Jimin’s room to kiss his cheeks or forehead when she thought Jimin was asleep when in fact his eyes were just closed because he couldn’t sleep. Jimin knew his sister loved him, but it was easier to believe otherwise before.

Bongcha sobbed, reaching for Jimin’s hands across the table and squeezing them.

"Jeongguk- he-" Jimin hiccupped, digging the heels of palms on his eyes, a stupid attempt to stop the tears from spilling. "I was heartbroken because my mate cheated on me, thinking I wasn't worthy enough, can't give him pups, so I ran away and divorced him. I was broken- I didn't really feel or see what was going on around me, I just—let it all happen, moving from day to day without trying to live day to day. I had no one- the few friends I had got tired of me because no matter what they said, I was just getting worse. They got tired of me. Who wouldn't, right? You, my own family, weren't there for me. I thought, if this is what growing up is, I don’t want it

"I was lost for so long…but Jeongguk, I don't know how but he stuck with me no matter how hard I was on him, no matter how many times I pushed him away— he always came back to me. He would bring me cinnamon rolls every day, remind me that I’m amazing just the w-way I am. Without me realizing it, I- I started to live again… I'm far from being whole, but I've become a little less broken, and I… I want to love again. I- I want to live again. Jeongguk accepts me, loves me with all my flaws. He loves me.”

Jimin got up, stiffening everyone’s breath. “And I'm not letting any of you take that away from me. I'm not going to let any of you break down the me I tried so hard to build.”

"M-mom," Jimin looked at her, then, "dad," and then, "Bongcha. I- I'm happy. I'm so h-happy… so happy. I love Jeongguk. I l-love him." 

Jimin went his whole life thinking he didn't deserve to be loved for one reason or another. Either he wasn't good enough, or he was lacking in some way. He only knew of the type of love that came from others, so Jimin loved in the only way he knew to be right. However, the love he knew was the love that destroyed and took everything away from him. His love ruined relationships that had lost him the people he wanted to keep forever, and worse of all, it ruined himself. 

He didn't understand that love could come from himself. He had no idea that that kind of love was the strongest of them all. It took him some time, but now he knew, loving himself was the best love he could give.

“I love you son. I’m sorry I never stepped in, I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you but I’ll be with you starting from here.” Jimin’s dad promised, and Jimin didn’t know when but his dad was cradling his head against his chest. 

"Jimin, everything I did- it was all out of love." Jimin's mom croaked out, her face was flushed from rubbing her tears dry. “I’m sorry that my love has caused you all this pain. Mom has hurt you so much, hasn't she? I was selfish, for the longest time I thought all the things that I was doing were for your own sake but n-no, I only thought of myself, and mom is so sorry. I just wanted the best for you. I wanted you to be independent and to grow up to be strong and confident like your sister, but instead I became the worst for you. My love wasn’t enough, my love wasn’t always right. I will understand if you don’t want to have anything to do with me, but I- I want to make things right.” 

Jimin let his head fall on his palms, his body shaking with the force of his sobs. Jimin didn't know when but at one moment he felt himself being enveloped in warm hugs. He could crave the new sensations of the old feelings that were so carefully engraved in his mind when his parents and sister hugged him like he was the most precious human being in their lives. He was feeling the way he did all those years back, and he wanted to bask in the feeling without caring how long they would be valid. 

The next morning, he was greeted with a smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. The sweet scent mingling with the late dawn breeze invited the warmth of golden rays poured through the gaps of window curtains. For the first time in so long, the emerging sun was smiling instead of mocking him in his face.  

͓

Damp and sharp cold December wind pierced through Jimin’s lungs when he inhaled deeply while standing on the sidewalk. Just in a few blinks, the same wind that carried the strong heat to burn everyone’s skin had calmed down and changed into something from swaying the yellow leaves with the flow to stabbing the cold in everyone’s flesh. 

Busan should be as white as a majestic land surrounded by glaciers, Jimin wondered.  

Even though they had two perfectly functioning cars and it would be easier to use them especially during a time like December, they decided to ride the KTX just to re-live the cold nostalgia.  

"I missed this," Jimin said, just enough for Jeongguk to hear. Jimin's head was resting on Jeongguk's shoulder, his lips curled upwards. 

"Me too.”

 

Jimin was like a teenager again with this Meeting His Parents For The First Time feeling, not an omega in his 30's. Jeongguk and he were in front of the alpha's family house, Jeongguk had just rung the bell. They were waiting for an answer. Jeongguk said his parents were probably asleep since it was already 7 p.m., Jimin supposed it was true what they said; as one grew older, they regressed back to being children. Because, who slept that early, really? 

He couldn’t help the way his stomach churned, he didn’t want to ruin this. But who would want a divorced and infertile omega for their son, right? 

"Stop being so nervous, chicky." The alpha probably noticed the way his scent had turned sour. “Who wouldn't adore you?" Jeongguk pressed the tip of his nose against Jimin's, the omega's eyes fluttering, a bubble of laughter escaping his lips. 

"Thank you," Jimin nuzzled back. Before Jimin could pull away from Jeongguk, the door swung open revealing two people who were wearing matching pajamas. Jimin was certain they were Jeongguk’s parents. 

Jimin was frozen on his spot, desperately trying to pull his hand away from Jeongguk’s hand to no avail. Jeongguk’s parents had probably seen Jimin smooching their son, and now their eyes were fixed on their hands.

“Calm down baby.” Jeongguk was amused, while Jimin was about to flip the fuck out. Jeongguk’s parents told them to come in, so they did.

The hanok was a place of subtle beauty and serenity. This traditional Korean house brings the outside in with the open concept kitchen and dining that opens to the courtyard and patio outside. Successfully allowing its human residents to coexist peacefully with the simplicity, beauty, and spirit of nature 

“Oh. Oh. Is he your baby?” Jeongguk’s mom chirped, realization hitting her belatedly. The alpha nodded in lieu of an answer, and his mom slapped his son’s hand away on Jimin’s waist and immediately pulled Jimin for a hug. Jimin hugged her back albeit stiffly.

“Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Park Jimin and I- uh, I like your pajamas.” Jimin greeted The Parents after The Hug, sinking his teeth on his bottom lip when it dawned on him how inappropriate it sounded. Jeongguk’s parents however just laughed. Jeongguk pulled him by the waist in assurance. 

“What a beautiful omega you are! Did my son force you to date him?” Jeongguk’s mother said playfully, brushing Jimin’s bangs back like he was her own son.

“Ma!”

Facing them straight, there was no doubt they were Jeongguk’s parents. Jeongguk got his youthfulness and the big doe eyes from his mother while the prominent nose was from his father. Jimin was astonished. They looked like they haven't aged a day over 30.

“N-no I- I like Jeongguk.” Jimin blurted. 

“He’s nervous.” Jeongguk giggled.

“Don’t be nervous, little one. You’re in good hands.” Jeongguk’s dad said good-naturedly, tapping on Jimin’s shoulder. “I’ll take your bags to your room.” Jeongguk’s dad offered since their bodies were both too exhausted from the long ride to refuse.

“Thanks, Pa.”

“I’m sorry if we woke you up,” Jimin said.

“It’s fine! Don’t fret over it. Jeongguk told us in advance that you’d be coming,” Mrs. Jeon said. “Should I cook for you? You both must be hungry.”

“No, Ma. Jimin can’t eat when he’s tired. We’ll eat in the morning.” Jeongguk informed. Jimin grabbed Jeongguk’s hand, trying to be subtle when he mouthed: “what about you?” Jeongguk shook his head. Apparently, they weren’t as subtle as Jimin thought because Jeongguk’s mom was smiling at them.

“Sweet young love.” She said, petting both of their heads. “I remember when it was me and Jeongguk’s dad. We—”

“Ma! Don’t! Just don’t!” Jeongguk looked like he wanted to evacuate to another planet while his mom, however, seemed pleased with his reaction.

She clamped her mouth shut, rolling her eyes at her son before saying, “We’ll be out early for a camp tomorrow with our organization. Don’t know when we’ll be back but your Pa just restocked the fridge yesterday, so you can cook whatever you want. I’ll go to bed!”

“Ma, no good night kiss?” Jeongguk pouted, Jimin’s eyes widened. 

What a baby!

“You’re too old for that, you punk." Jeongguk’s mom slapped the pout off Jeongguk’s lips. "Why don't you ask your dad?” She snickered.

“Ew! Dad doesn’t brush his teeth anymore,” Jeongguk groaned. Jimin was biting down on his lips, trying so hard to suppress a laugh.

“Jeon Junior I can hear you,” his dad screamed from the other room, his voice muffled but clear. 

“Ask Jimin for a kiss, plus you have the house all to yourselves, so do whatever you want.” She smiled suggestively, slapping their backs. “Good night pups.”

And with that she was gone, leaving Jimin speechless while Jeongguk cackled.

All of Jimin’s worries flew out of the window. At the end of the day, they carried that comfort inside to the beautiful low platform bed that overlooks the garden.

͓

As Jimin woke from his slumber, the first thing he noticed was the chilliness of the December air, and the familiar sweet scent of orange. The rays of sunlight penetrated the window, illuminating his face. Jimin yawned, raising both of his arms and spreading his legs to stretch as if he was making a snow angel. Jimin didn't have it in him to open his eyes yet, instead of shutting them tightly, turning to his side to bury his face on the alpha's neck. 

"Tickles," Jeongguk laughed airily. Jimin slowly opened his left eye, peeking at him.

"Is my alpha awake?" 

"Morning chicky." Jeongguk booped their noses together, holding Jimin close by the hips. “Should we get up?”

"Five more minutes," Jimin whined, his eyes fluttering close. Jimin loved the cold weather so much, it meant him being able to sleep more easily and longer too. Hence why the five minutes turned into an hour. Jeongguk had to tickle him to get out of the bed. 

"Get up pretty." Jimin flushed at the nickname, face planting on Jeongguk's pillow. He would never get used to it. Jeongguk slapped his butt before going to the bathroom to wash.

Jimin opened the fridge to cook breakfast, and then he saw a note that made him smile so big. It read:

I hope you both woke up with a smile. Focus on yourselves. Be happy. Merry Christmas lovely pups! —Pa & Ma. 

True to their words, Jeongguk's parents were gone the next morning. Jimin had asked the alpha if they usually go out even during holidays, and Jeongguk said that they were out more frequently during holidays. They did go camping a lot.  

Jimin cooked kimchi fried rice and some dumplings for their lunch. He also made some meals, packed them in containers, and placed them inside the fridge for Jeongguk's parents. He saw that the fridge was fully stocked like what Jeongguk's mom had said, but other than that, it was mostly empty, save for what he had assumed were dietary supplements.

As Jimin was scooping a cup of kimchi fried rice, he felt a pair of arms wrap around his waist. "Are you going to camp too?" Jeongguk teased, referring to the ample amount of food on the kitchen countertop. 

"No, silly. This is for your parents. I didn't get to be with them for long, but they were so nice and welcoming, so I thought it'd be nice to cook something for them." Jimin said, placing some dumplings on his plate. Jeongguk was quiet for a moment and if it weren't for the firmly wrapped arms around him, he would've thought he had left. 

"Thank you, baby," Jeongguk breathed, pressing a soft kiss on the column of Jimin's neck. "We'll have more time in the future." 

*

They left the Jeon residence on the 23rd of December to pay Jeongguk's past mate a visit on his grave and then catch a train back to Seoul on the same day. 

This exact day was Jaeshin's third death anniversary. Jeongguk and Jimin took a cab to the memorial cemetery. Jimin's eyes were the only visible part of him because of his baby blue beanie, his face buried in his scarf, and his hands covered with mittens his mom knitted for them. It was freezing even inside the cab. Jimin loved the cold, but he was weak with it. Jeongguk, on the other hand, was wearing a black trench coat on top of his long sleeve top, a bouquet of chrysanthemum lying beside him.

Jimin reached out for Jeongguk's hand to lace their fingers and sulked when he remembered that he was wearing mittens. Jeongguk understood and cracked a smile, pressing a kiss on Jimin's forehead before inserting his fingers inside the mitten to try and twine their fingers.

"Better?" 

Jimin beamed, letting his head fall on Jeongguk's chest.  

The omega had expected Jeongguk to be in a somber mood, which of course would be totally understood but the alpha was just his usual self, if not reminiscent.  

Jimin initially had a lot of fears. Jaeshin was an incredible omega, that he knew from all the stories Jeongguk told him about. Jimin wasn't jealous, no. In fact, he was scared— scared that he couldn't give Jeongguk the love he deserved, that he couldn't be as good as Jaeshin was to Jeongguk. Because he wasn't Jaeshin. But Jeongguk had kicked those demons out before they could drag Jimin to hell. Jeongguk had constantly assured Jimin, telling him how lovely and lucky he was to have the omega in his life. 

But Jimin felt lucky, more than anything to have Jeongguk. To be able to experience the love that was Jeon Jeongguk. Jimin told Jeongguk every time he had the chance how important he was to his life and how much he had helped him get back on his feet. Jimin wasn't the best with emotions, but he wanted to be better for himself because then he could be good to everyone else around him.  

"What are you thinking so loud about?" Jeongguk asked, scratching Jimin's ticklish palms.

"You," he admitted shamelessly and Jeongguk's eyes widened, a blush creeping up on his cheeks. 

"That's my line." Jeongguk pouted.

"But you're mine." 

Jeongguk averted his eyes, looking at the window. Jimin could see him biting his lip to stop a grin, and Jimin threw his head back in laughter. Jeongguk couldn't take the taste of his own medicine. Hah.

 

They walked hand in hand to Jaeshin's grave. If Jimin noticed the way Jeongguk's hand trembled slightly, he didn't say anything.

Jeongguk squeezed Jimin's hand before letting go and clutching the flowers on both hands before placing them down on top of Jaeshin's tombstone. 

"Hi.” Jeongguk smiled, looking down. "I miss you every day. Do you miss me too? You're probably upset with me about a lot of stuff, I know I made a lot of crazy decisions the past few years." Jeongguk's voice was loud enough for Jimin to hear, and he felt bad for intruding such a private moment, so he stepped backward to give Jeongguk space, but the alpha caught his wrist, and held his hand. 

"I—"

"Stay here." 

"Okay."

"But I know you're proud of me too because finally, I made the best decision for once. And that is being with Jimin. You know him right? I told you about him a lot of times, you're probably so done with me. He takes care of me a lot, makes sure I eat in time, scolds me when I do stupid things, kisses me when I feel down, so please don't come for him in his sleep." Jeongguk managed to joke, Jimin choked out a watery laugh. "You don't have to worry too much about me now. I'm happy, I feel very content with what I have and where I am now, and I know you are too, that wherever you are right now I know you're smiling big at me, and wiping your tears because you're a cry baby." 

Jimin watched as a tear slid down Jeongguk's cheeks. He immediately stepped into the alpha's space, tiptoed and wrapped his arms around Jeongguk's shoulders, and pulled him closer. A hug so warm that even the winter cold couldn't break them. Jimin had no words to say but just being there was enough.

"You're the best thing that has ever happened to me." Jimin cupped Jeongguk’s face, tracing the tears that had dried on his face with his fingers. “I love you. I love you so much.” Jeongguk’s lip quivered, and Jimin watched as tears escaped Jeongguk’s eyes.

“I- I love you too.”

They said that the eyes were the windows to the soul, and Jeongguk’s brown eyes had always been the dreamy passage to the most beautiful soul Jimin had gotten to know, but right now, Jimin was convinced that nothing could ever top the beauty of them. Jimin could see through them, and he could see the love that was undoubtedly there.

 

Never in his wildest dreams did he ever think of going back to Busan, not after all the things that happened for this place that held so many memories that he didn't want to remember. But now being here, sitting inside the moving train, was like a trip down memory lane.

Jimin had lost a lot of things, people that turned into fading memories. Some memories could bring you the best of sorrows and some could bring you the best of joys. That's just how life is, and he learned how to just accept how things were. He learned from his mistakes and was working on becoming the best version of himself. Although a lot of bridges had been burnt down and he had parted ways with a lot of people, it made him realize a lot of things that he didn't know existed, and he was grateful for that. Because somehow, those memories were once a big part of his life, and it hurt to let them go, but he believed the universe had a better plan for him.

It was hard to believe that he was here, leaving the place with new and beautiful memories with his fingers interlocked with the person he had come to love.

͓

As much as Jimin wanted to delay it, the last day of the final semester came faster than he liked, but much to his delight, none of his students failed any of their classes, not even Junseok which meant that he was graduating and that was like the biggest reward that Jimin could get. When Jimin announced this to his class, most of his students, including Junseok and him, shed a tear. It wasn’t only Jimin but everyone had been helping Junseok since the very start, his classmates were kind enough to teach him what he had trouble understanding, and were very patient with him throughout everything. All their hard work had paid off, and they couldn’t be happier with the result.

The past couple of weeks, Jimin had been busy, but thankfully, he finished the last batch of mountains of exam papers. He had been busy marking papers and computing grades. One of the hardest things about being an advisory teacher of a graduating class was that he had to collect all of his 35 students’ requirements, such as their birth certificate, form 137, form 138, and certificate of good moral while the list just went on and on. The thing was most of the time the students just didn’t take his words seriously when he said their requirements should be complete or else. Jimin had a problem with a few of his students, and since it was his first time handling graduating students Jimin was heavily distressed. He was always reminded that he didn’t work very well under pressure, but he always found a way to solve problems with the help of his seniors. 

Jeongguk had been with him throughout the excruciating two weeks. They had been helping each other with whatever they could manage like how Jimin helped Jeongguk organize some papers while Jeongguk helped him print out report cards of students. It made things more bearable in a sense, seeing Jeongguk’s lashes fanning against his soft cheek while jotting something down when Jimin looked at him.

And now that everything had been done and there was nothing left but the moving up ceremony, and Jimin couldn’t help but feel emotional. This happened every year, but it was still the most painful part of being a teacher; saying goodbye and having to let go of students whom he had grown attached to and probably never see again. Although they were also the constant source of his headaches. He believed it was part of teaching and love for his students all the same. 

He was at the cafeteria drinking his smoothie alone. He was supposed to go with Jeongguk, but he ditched him saying the IT Department had called for him. Out of nowhere one of his students, Byun frantically called his name. Jimin got up almost immediately, concern washing over him. 

"What's wrong?" Jimin blanched, his smoothie long forgotten. Jimin groaned inwardly, what could his students possibly have gotten themselves into this time?

“Jungkyung and Yeonsa—she—they are fighting!” Byun sputtered.

“What?!” Jimin almost yelped. “Where?” he squeezed the bridge of his nose, his head already pounding.

“C-classroom.”

Jimin marched to their second-floor classroom, eyebrows raised. What if someone was bleeding? Jimin screamed blasphemy in his head. His students will be the death of him. 

Jimin thought he heard Byun chuckle, but maybe that was just his imagination, so he ignored it. By the time they reached the room, all the curtains were drawn, the doors were closed, and everything was... quiet. Weird, since it should be all chaos and annihilation.

“Are you sure they’re...here?” Jimin questioned, perplexed.

“Yes, teacher, come inside.” 

He slowly opened the door and his instincts were correct. There was no fight (Jimin couldn’t believe he fell for it. After all these years of teaching, he believed he had memorized the students' antics but guess not), but thirty of his students are compressed together, some holding colorful banners, some holding heart-shaped balloons of pastel color and some were just...there, grinning at him. 

“Surprise!” 

They cheered in unison with big smiles on their goofy faces. Jimin was speechless. He looked around the room only to see that all corners of the room had been decorated. A We Will Miss You Teacher Park was scribbled in a cute font in all caps on the banners. There was also a table full of different types of food that Jimin could have mistaken for a Christmas party. And in the middle was Jeon Jeongguk with his bunny-like grin. Jeongguk waved at Jimin enthusiastically, and Jimin narrowed his eyes at him, bursting into giggles soon after.

Taking it all in, Jimin darted his teary eyes between the students who were wearing smiles. Jimin wanted to memorize their faces, for this might be the last time he’d ever see them. He wanted to thank them and say that he was so happy and that he really really appreciated the gesture, but things don't always go according to plan.

“Whose plan was it?” The words came out harder than Jimin would have liked, he blamed himself. He was trying to hold the tears back. His students fell silent, the joy on their faces replaced by horror. Jimin laughed, "fools," before he burst into tears. He quickly covered his face with his small hands, embarrassment gnawing at him. Jeongguk was on his side in a flash, stroking his blonde hair.

Jimin heard his students cooing at the same time before they hugged him, and cried harder. He didn't want to cry today, he said he wouldn’t but here he was. Jimin was moved by the gesture. It was so kind and thoughtful of his students, he didn’t think he deserved it but he was grateful nonetheless. It was not the first time it had happened because when a teacher was appreciated by their students, nice stuff was always a bonus in their career. Students could be as stubborn as hell, but they were just as loving. Their thoughtfulness touched something soft inside his heart and pushed him beyond his hindering horizon. 

After his humiliating breakdown, Jimin finally thanked his students and hugged them one by one. Everyone cracked up when they saw Jeongguk at the very end of the line, waiting for a hug with his arms wide open. Jimin slapped his arms and hugged him when he sulked and his silly students fucking squealed. Jimin was overflowing with love. 

Jimin wiped away his tears and joined them to eat the food his students had prepared for this little celebration. “You are all so dramatic." Jimin sniffed and rolled his eyes while he chewed on a cupcake one of his students baked. That thought alone made him want to cry but he held back. 

“Says the one who cried.”

“Hey!” Jimin feigned offense, which made the whole class laugh and he couldn’t help it either. He choked on the cupcake when he accidentally inhaled pieces of it which turned his students into a giggling mess. Jeongguk was just watching the interaction, chewing on a cupcake too, he had such a sweet tooth.

For the rest of the day, they talked about the love life of his students, "ah, sweet young love," Jimin thought, Jeongguk smiling at him from the corner of the room. He had his fair share of puppy love problems back in high school, so Jimin did his best to help in any way. They took a lot of photos too, Jeongguk took most of them for them, some he, too, included. Jimin was sure his students intentionally pushed him beside Jeongguk when they squeezed together to check the photos. Jimin’s face was literally a couple of inches apart from Jeongguk.

“Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” 

Of course, these little devils wouldn’t let him off the hook that easily. Jimin shook his head vehemently, stepping away from Jeongguk not because he didn’t want to do it but because he was embarrassed. Jimin’s face grew hot as they cheered, but when he looked up he saw Jeongguk laughing, Jimin didn’t know what had gotten into him. Maybe it was the way the redness of Jeongguk’s cheeks made his whole face glow or the way his eyes crinkled at the side when he smiled but Jimin pulled Jeongguk by the collar of his dress shirt and left a soft kiss on his cheek. 

The students cheered like they were a winning team in a soccer match.

 

A few of his students gave him handwritten letters. Jimin told his students that he woldn't read anything in front of them because he might cringe to death—a huge lie. In fact, he was afraid he would cry again, and he was accurate as he started to cry when he read the letters in his bedroom.

“I’m so glad I met you, Teacher Park. I wish you could be our teacher again next year.”

“Sorry for being so stubborn and thank you for being patient with me, even when my mother couldn’t...”

“All of my past teachers hated me for my attitude, but you didn't. You tried to understand me. Thank you for being my teacher. You’re the best.”

“Please take care of yourself, Teacher Park. Be happy! You are always beautiful, but you are the most beautiful when you smile.”

Jimin was practically drowning in his sea of tears by the end. His eyes burned from crying too much, his was nose blocked so he was breathing through his mouth. 

And just when he thought he couldn't cry anymore, he read the last letter.

“I don’t have a father, but I have you. I feel like I was able to become a better person thanks to you. Thank you for taking care of me. I love you, seonsaengnim.”

͓

Lately, he has started doing a lot of simple things that would make him happy. He had taken interest in succulents and had been caring for them for a while, he currently had two and named them Koo and Mimi. He talked to them while he watered them, his mom had told him that he should treat his plants like humans too because that’d help them grow healthier. 

Jimin had also started playing the guitar and using the guitar he got for Jeongguk on the occasion of their first anniversary. He was trying to see if he would be invested enough to buy one. Sometimes Jeongguk would teach him to play some songs but not without teasing him about how small his fingers were, and he would eventually make it up by kissing each of them afterward. 

Happiness didn’t have to be grand, it could be as simple as waking up Jeongguk and watching the fringe of his brown hair falling over his eyes. It could be as simple as laughing when Jimin lost a bet and would have to kiss Jeongguk thrice, pretending he hated it when it made his stomach flutter. 

It had also been half a year since Jimin had sold his old house and moved in with his alpha. The two of them had thought it out for a while, constantly asking each other’s opinions about it. They both worried that they were moving too fast but with the uncertainty of life, did it really matter? It was normal for them to worry a lot about some things but they had each other to share those thoughts with, so it became easier knowing they could say everything they wanted to without being judged.

Just like every other relationship, theirs wasn’t perfect either. They had gotten into fights, didn’t talk to each other for hours just to give each other the space they needed, waiting for their heads to cool down. Mostly, it was Jimin who needed time, and Jeongguk was always patient, ready to pull Jimin into his arms whenever, and Jimin had learned from Jeongguk how to set aside his pride and be kinder. Jimin’s love for him was stronger than his anger and fears. Their love was stronger than anything.



Jeongguk went home smelling like something other than his usual orange scent. It was sweet, like strawberries. He had been jumpy ever since Jeongguk came home, dizzy when Jeongguk hugged him and the smell intensified. Jeongguk didn’t wear perfume since his nose was sensitive to artificial scents so his mind couldn’t make out a possible reason as to why he smelled like that. He and Jeongguk didn’t work at the same school anymore because the alpha was transferred to another place. What if Jeongguk found someone else there? 

They were both sitting on the couch, a few inches away from each other. Jimin would usually cling to Jeongguk. Jeongguk’s eyes were closed, he usually took an hour or so before showering after going home. He had half a mind to just let it go and forget about it for now but keeping things to himself or from other people had never resulted in anything good.

“Jeongguk,” he wanted to run away as soon as the word left his mouth.

“Yes, baby?” Jeongguk asked, his attention fully on Jimin.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“Why…do you smell like- like that?” Jimin turned away when he felt his eyes stinging. He trusted Jeongguk, he really did. He just couldn’t help but feel insecure. Jeongguk’s eyes snapped open at the tone of his voice, rushing to Jimin’s side.

“Hey,” Jeongguk’s voice was gentle, reading Jimin like an open book. He got up and went on the other side of the couch to face Jimin. “It’s a perfume sample. My co-worker sells perfume and he wanted to try these new scents he did, to check how long they last. We all kind of became part of his experiments.” Jeongguk said truthfully and Jimin… he felt so dumb. 

“I’m sorry-” he was about to leave but Jeongguk pulled him back.

“Hey now, it’s okay,” Jeongguk soothed, lacing their fingers together. He kissed Jimin’s cheek when a tear fell.

“I trust you… I just can’t help but- but feel scared. I’m sorry.” Jimin admitted, resting his forehead on Jeongguk’s shoulder.

“I know. We promised to tell each other when something bothers us, didn’t we?” Jimin nodded. “Thank you for telling me, you’re doing so well.” 

“I love you.”

It cost them a lot of arguments and breakdowns before Jimin finally accepted that allowing Jeongguk in the deepest recess of his fears and letting him find the worst of his insecurities didn’t mean he was weak, it didn’t mean he was burdening Jeongguk. He had the illusion that the trouble would weigh twice as heavy if shared with someone, but he failed to realize on his own that sharing trouble with the right person who cared would help him not only make everything weightless, but he might even overcome the hardest parts with a genuine smile.

 

Jeongguk was aware that his boyfriend was a stunning omega, and he was proud of it. Loved to remind Jimin about it all the time, loved that his omega knew how beautiful he was, but Jeongguk couldn’t help but hiss every time an alpha would stare for too long at Jimin. They weren’t mated, they both agreed that it wasn’t time for that yet but Jeongguk’s lingering scent on Jimin should be enough of a warning that he was taken.

Jimin had turned down so many alphas as politely as he could, and Jeongguk had glared and growled at too many alphas and it worked, but much to both of their dismay, that wasn’t always the case for alphas, a mating mark sometimes wasn’t enough for them to know their place. 

Those people pissed Jeongguk so much that Jimin had to pepper him with kisses until he had calmed down. Behind Jeongguk’s calm and composed demeanor hid a territorial alpha. Jeongguk rarely got jealous or upset about other alphas because he trusted Jimin and if he did get jealous, he would whine to Jimin just because he wanted to be coddled.

“I know you’re pretty- even I go crazy for you but damn you are mine. ” Jeongguk huffed, arms crossed over his chest. Jimin threw his head back in laughter. “Tell me you’re mine.”

“I’ve always been yours, silly.” Jimin kissed both of his cheeks. “Only yours.”

Jeongguk whined, burying his face on Jimin’s chest, brushing the tip of his nose against it making the omega giggle.

“Mine.”

“You’re the most handsome alpha I’ve ever laid my eyes on,” Jimin said, brushing the tips of their noses together. Jeongguk might appear confident but Jimin knew the alpha better than that. Jeongguk often worried about how Jimin saw him, appearance-wise.

Jeongguk blushed, blinking at him. “Really?”

“Really!”

“Even if I have this huge pimple on my cheek right now?” 

“Uh-huh, even if you are the pimple.” 

God, Jimin was so good at this, wasn’t he?

“Thanks, I guess.” Jeongguk glared at him before erupting into fits of giggles.

“No, but actually, I think you’re really really attractive. The first time I saw you, you caught my eye, but I was a bitter and heartbroken omega back then so I convinced my mind that you looked like Dante.” Jimin guffawed.

“Baby, that’s so mean but thanks, at least now I know that you’ve been thirsting over me since day one.”

Jimin kissed Jeongguk’s lips as yes.

“You’re the most handsome, sexiest, nicest, and strongest alpha. Mine!”  

͓

Jimin loved Jeongguk with all of his might, he put a great amount of trust in Jeongguk, in them. And he wasn’t afraid, because he knew Jeongguk was the person he could love to the greatest depth. But it had taken him an eternity to fight and bring down his own barriers to open up to someone and let them be a part of his life. Jimin did not regret his decision, he would never, but there was a part of him that Jimin was scared to get overwhelmed because sometimes he needed time to adjust to the pace of his life. 

He was loyal to his emotions, but he wanted some time before he could allow Jeongguk to be closer to him. Jimin somehow felt guilty over it, because he was always sliding on edge when Jeongguk’s behavior towards him had left no room to be skeptical, but he wanted to express how much his inner peace was important to him. Thus, the time. 

Jimin wasn’t ready to put down all of the barriers between him and Jeongguk, and Jeongguk had somehow understood him completely instead of bashing him. He had been utterly considerate towards Jimin’s feelings and even insisted Jimin take as much time as needed when Jimin would feel guilty over his choices. 

They would eventually get there one day, without all of Jimin’s restrictions. Jeongguk had assured him with all the confidence in the world.

That was why they had both agreed that staying together could lead to some situations that might create conflict in the future. As soon as the warm and powdery sweet scent grew stronger in the air, Jeongguk comforted him before staying away for a few days, and instead brought Taehyung to help him. Jimin had agreed instantly upon hearing Taehyung’s name because an omega’s company could have been a thousand times better than the alpha’s absence.

They knew Jeongguk’s absence was painful for Jimin because his wolf recognized Jeongguk as his alpha, his mate, but it was necessary. Deep down, Jimin would forever beat himself up for doing something he was not ready for. It was very easy to lose control when Jimin would be in a state of losing his capability of distinguishing his real world and his wolf’s needs.

He could not bear to disappoint Jeongguk along with himself.  

͓

Jeongguk was as consistent as he was since day one. He knew Jimin trusted him but he went out of his way to make sure Jimin didn’t worry, not even a bit. Jeongguk always checked in on him, texted Jimin important stuff like if he was going to be home a little later than usual, where he was, who he was with. Jimin told the alpha that he didn’t have to, afraid that he’d suffocate Jeongguk but the alpha had brushed it off, kissed the omega, and assured it was nothing, that if it would help Jimin just a little, Jeongguk would be the happiest. 

Despite their busy work life, they still found time for each other. As simple as going to a convenience store at three in the morning with their hands intertwined to buy bibimbap and chocolate milk made the dinosaurs in his stomach roar to life. There were times when they were too busy and too tired from work that they didn’t have time for each other except when they lay in bed, sharing each other’s warmth. There were no words exchanged, but sometimes that was enough. 

Their relationship wasn’t perfect, they had their bumps on the road, but the most important thing was that they had each other to motivate and lift up every single time. They were still learning about each other and they had so many things to learn about and they had all the time for that. Right now they were content with what they had.

 

“Hm, keep doing that.” Jimin moaned, eyes shut tight.

“Yeah? Like this?” Jeongguk asked, angling his hand better.

“Oh God, yes! Feels so good.” Jimin nearly screamed in pleasure. “I love it when you scratch my head like that.”

Jeongguk scratched his scalp harder, eliciting groans of satisfaction from Jimin. The omega planted his heel on the futon to push himself up, propping his head better on Jeongguk’s lap. Jimin rubbed his cheek on the alpha’s thigh like a needy cat, making him laugh. 

“You’re so adorable,” Jeongguk said, halting his scratching in favor of caressing Jimin’s cheeks, the omega preened, grinning at his alpha. Jeongguk continued scratching his head gently and focused his eyes on another Disney movie, Brave, thanks to Jimin’s fixation on Disney movies. But despite one of his favorite movies being played on the screen, Jimin couldn’t help but stare at Jeongguk.

“You’re not even watching the movie you begged to rewatch.” Jeongguk caressed Jimin’s cheek with his thumb, then this eyebrow down his eyelid. Jeongguk was always so gentle with his touches Jimin couldn’t help but blush.

"I like watching you more." 

The statement caught Jeongguk off guard if the way he sputtered was any indication.

"I can't believe I'm dating you. I think I saved a country in my past life." Jimin said, his hands in between each of Jeongguk's armpits. It was weird, yeah, but the alpha's armpits were warm (not to mention that Jeongguk smelt so fucking good) and Jimin liked the warmth. Jeongguk let Jimin do everything he wanted with him, not minding his peculiar habits. 

"I can't believe I'm dating you." Jeongguk bent down to leave a peck on Jimin's forehead. "You're the first… after Jaeshin." The confession made Jimin stop his antics, his hands falling on his stomach. 

He didn't know, they didn't talk much about their pasts. They decided that they didn't want to dwell on it anymore. Jimin didn't know what to say. He was grateful that Jeongguk trusted him even though he had his own setbacks, and Jimin was glad he had let Jeongguk in.

"You have something on your face," Jimin said. 

"What?" Jeongguk's big doe eyes innocently blinked at Jimin, waiting for the omega to do something. Jeongguk leaned down, "please remove—" the rest of his words were lost against Jimin's lips when the omega pulled him by the neck, slotting their lips together. 

“Hey—” Jeongguk laughed, pulling away for a breath but Jimin chased his lips, and kissed him. Once, twice, thrice. 

“Yum!” Jimin grinned, rubbing his face on Jeongguk’s toned stomach. Jeongguk guffawed and slapped Jimin’s ass.

 

The limelight from the wide windows and transparent glass doors of Jeongguk’s house glinted on their faces in shades as they stared at each other, content with their visions. 

“I was supposed to tell you this before but I keep forgetting.”

Jimin hummed as a response, nuzzling further Jeongguk’s neck to make him continue.

“I substituted for Teacher Hwang in one of his classes before,” Jeongguk said, carding his fingers through Jimin’s blonde locks, the other hand supporting Jimin’s back.

“Science Department?” Jimin looked up, straddling the alpha’s lap, his hands around Jeongguk's neck.

“Yep.” 

They had gotten more comfortable as their relationship progressed. Jimin had been shy to even initiate a peck on the cheek at first but now, their small fleeting kisses had managed to transform to him straddling Jeongguk's hips and grinding down on the alpha. Jimin was the more reckless one, while Jeongguk liked to keep their pace. 

It sent shivers down Jimin's spine and made his toes curl to see Jeongguk trying so damn hard to hold himself back. If Jimin was feeling a little bit playful, he'd like to push past his breaking point. It was fun to tease Jeongguk. 

"And what about it?" Jimin asked coyly, his eyes fluttering shut when Jeongguk's hand traveled up his thighs, giving them a squeeze. Jeongguk followed the action, kissing Jimin before nibbling on the omega's plush bottom lip, eliciting a moan from the two of them.

"I continued where Teacher Hwang l-left off his l-lesson so we were h-having a recitation—" Jeongguk gripped Jimin's hips when he wouldn't stop swiveling them against Jeongguk's, the alpha was straining himself trying not to thrust up. "Can you calm down baby?" he laughed, kneading Jimin's ass. 

Chuchu fucking barked, hissing at them before leaving like nothing happened. 

"See? Chuchu agrees." 

"I'm gonna spank your dog." Jimin pouted but he complied anyway, instantly halting his movements, cupping Jeongguk's face instead. Jeongguk wrapped his hands on Jimin's waist, pulling him closer. 

"As I was saying I covered for Teacher Hwang's afternoon classes because he was out for— I forgot what — I was holding a bunch of each students' index cards since I don't know them well. It was so tense because no one wants to be called. For the third question, I picked Junseok's — your favorite student’s — index card. Called to him, he got up from his seat, waited for the ques—" Jeongguk cackled, he was cackling so hard that Jimin's body shook from where he was seated in his lap.

Jimin smacked his arm. "Can you please finish what you were saying first, mister?" 

"I asked him: "what is the relationship—' laughter, smack "relationship between speed and t-time? Fuck-" Jeongguk threw his head back in laughter. Jimin didn't know what was up but he grinned at him anyway. 

"Tell me!" Jimin whined and pinched his nipples. Jeongguk hissed but the next second he was cackling again. 

"You know what he answered?" 

Jimin blinked at Jeongguk.

"Love team." 

It took a few seconds for Jimin to process the information but when he finally understood, he shrank into a giggling mess. He almost fell backward if not for Jeongguk's reflex catching him by the waist.

"I know you said Junseok is effortlessly funny but— I swear I almost melted on the floor. I laughed too hard." Jeongguk said after they calmed down, wiping a stray tear.

"Sometimes I don't know if he's doing things on purpose or what. One time he went to school wearing his pants inside out." Jimin facepalmed, remembering how everyone pretty much busted a lung on how hilarious it was. "Junseok himself was confused as fuck. I don't know how he didn't know that he was wearing the wrong way. When we told him about it he just— smiled at everyone then stared at his pants before rushing down to the bathroom. We weren't done laughing when he came back, he laughed along with us though." 

"He's a funny kid."

"But every time after I laughed I can't help but feel guilty so one time I just— asked him if he minds or if he feels offended about it. He said no, he loves making his classmates laugh." 

Jeongguk hummed against Jimin’s collarbones before mouthing on Jimin’s neck. Jimin moaned in response. Jimin tilted his head to give Jeongguk more room.  Jeongguk slowly grazed his teeth through the column of his neck to follow the curve and reach his collarbone, piercing his teeth through the warmth. Jimin let out a small whimper despite trying to hold back. his head lolling on Jeongguk's shoulders. Jimin turned around to face Jeongguk and reach his inviting lips, his fingers tangling on his soft brown locks. Jeongguk moaned into the kiss, letting his hand travel from Jimin's hips south to the swell of his ass.

͓

There were times where Jeongguk would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, tears running down his face, screaming for Jimin’s name. 

The first time it happened Jimin was in so much shock he could barely move. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do because Jeongguk had always been the stronger one between the two of them so when Jeongguk crumbled, Jimin was speechless. But if there was one thing Jimin had learned in life, it was that just being there was enough.  

“I thought y-you- Jimin I thought y-you were gone.” Jeongguk sobbed, his face buried on Jimin’s neck. Jeongguk was clinging onto Jimin so hard, and his nails dug in Jimin so hard it broke his skin.

“I’m here. I won’t go. Nothing will happen, baby, I’ll be here.” Jimin kissed Jeongguk’s shoulder, rubbing soothing circles on his back. It hurt him to see Jeongguk like this but he knew his alpha was strong.

"Please d-don't... don't go. D-don't d-don't l-leave m-me too. P-please."

"I won't baby, I won't okay? I'm here." Jimin soothed, lacing their fingers together. " Breathe, breathe."

"B-breathe..."

"Can you count up to 10 for me, baby?” 

“O-okay.”

“Good, I’m here. I love you."

Each time it happened, he would rush over to Jeongguk’s sides and pull him into an embrace, murmuring reassurances into Jeongguk’s ears. Jimin would talk to him to distract the alpha from his thoughts, holding his hand while he slept. Jimin made sure that Jeongguk knew that even this side of him was beautiful, that Jimin loved everything about Jeongguk, just as how Jeongguk loved everything Jimin was.

They both understood that healing completely didn’t happen overnight, that all the things that hurt them couldn’t just magically disappear like they were never there in the first place. They understood that it was okay to be sad, upset, and cry about the things they thought they had healed from. 

͓

Jimin was reading the book that Bongcha recommended to him when Chuchu started barking, it only meant one thing: Jeongguk was home. Jimin shot up from up the bed and tossed the book on the mattress, petting Chuchu’s head, “good boy,” and waddled to the front door.

“Hi!” he beamed as soon as he saw his alpha. Jeongguk was away for a two-day seminar and Jimin had missed him. Texting and FaceTime just weren’t enough to suffice for the warmth of his alpha. “I’ve missed you,” he said, hugging Jeongguk from his side who was taking his shoes off. 

“Missed you too chicky,” Jeongguk mumbled, caressing the hair on Jimin’s nape. Jimin grabbed the bags from Jeongguk.

“I’ll do it,” he said before scurrying off to drop them in the laundry room, he would take care of them later.

“Bad day?” Jimin asked when he noticed the alpha’s somber mood. Jeongguk nodded in lieu of an answer. Jimin pouted, brushing Jeongguk’s hair away from his face.

“Wanna talk about it?” 

“No. I’ll be fine,” he reassured, and Jimin knew sometimes it was better to not push it so he didn’t say anything, wrapping his hands around the alpha instead. 

Jimin pulled Jeongguk gently to the couch.

“Sit down,” Jimin smiled. 

Jimin leaped his way around the couch and stood behind the alpha, Jeongguk’s back to him. Jeongguk followed his movements, giggling at the omega’s bubbliness. Jimin wrapped his arms around the alpha’s shoulder, tucking his chin on his left shoulder. Jimin nuzzled the alpha’s cheeks before leaving a soft kiss on it before draping his hands over Jeongguk’s shoulders. 

He pulled the muscles upward with gentle but constant pressure, pressing the tips of his fingers and thumbs into the trapezoid on both sides, starting on the inside of the shoulders closest to the neck and then lifting and lowering his forearms and elbows with slow, gentle motions.

“Wow, that feels so nice baby.” Jeongguk gruntled, his eyes closed.

“Yeah?” 

“Yeah.”

Jimin tried to have a steady pace while massaging Jeongguk. He brought his arms up and released his grip, then lowered them and channeled the movement in small pulses from his fingers.

“Wanna take care of my alpha.”

Jeongguk suddenly reached back to wrap his hands around Jimin’s wrists.

“Everything alright? Did I press too hard?” Jimin fussed. 

Jeongguk shook his head no, resting his left cheek on Jimin’s palm. “I love you.”

Here came the dinosaurs somersaulting in his stomach again. They had been dating for a while now but Jeongguk would always affect him as if it was the first time.

“I love y-you more.” 

Jeongguk tackled him and attacked him with tickles, making Jimin yelp.

͓

"Are you sure you want to go?" Jeongguk asked, kneeling in front of Jimin. His hands were on the omega's knees hoping to give the omega some sort of comfort. Jeongguk had managed to button up his maroon long sleeve but Jimin was still seated on the mattress, fidgeting with his nails. "We don't have to if you don't want to. You know that, right?" 

It was Teacher Shin's daughter's second birthday and they were invited, like always. Jimin couldn't believe how much time had passed already, it was mysterious how it passed so quickly. 

Of course, it crossed Jimin's mind to refuse the invitation again. He could come up with a lot of excuses to avoid situations like these like he did before. But the thing was, he didn't want to, not anymore. Jimin was done hiding when there was nothing to hide in the first place. He had long accepted that he couldn't conceive and that wasn't something he should hide or be ashamed of. Instead, it was something he had learned how to embrace, and that all of him was beautiful

The path was shaky and he had stumbled so many times that he wanted to give up because he thought it was futile to try. But it was because he believed in himself and someone— Jeongguk— had believed in him that he was able to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. 

"No, I- I can. It's okay." Jimin cupped the left side of Jeongguk's face, brushing his thumb over his tan skin. "One step at a time, remember?" 

Jeongguk smiled. "Yeah," Jeongguk pushed himself on his knees and kissed Jimin's cheek. "Proud of you." 

"Thank you… for always believing in me, and for n-never giving up on me." Jimin's voice wavered. 

Jimin thought life was over when the people he had loved had given up on him. It was later in life that he had realized that as long as you didn't give up on yourself, you'll be just fine. 

Jeongguk came into his life at the most unexpected but most perfect time. He was there when Jimin was bleeding on the floor, mourning his broken wings. Jeongguk stayed with him and watched him heal and run to the end of the cliff to leap and fly. Jeongguk stayed even if there were a lot of times where Jimin stepped back and ran in the opposite direction because he was afraid of falling. Jeongguk was still there when Jimin spread his wings and flew freely. 

"Aw, is my baby gonna cry?" Jeongguk cooed, squishing his cheeks, and leaned in to kiss his eyelids. Jimin shook his head with a pout, and Jeongguk kissed the pout away.

"Do you know how much I love you?" Jimin said against his lips. 

"I do, and I love you too baby." Jeongguk breathed, nuzzling Jimin's neck. "You smell especially good today."

"Really? Like what?"

"You smell like home."