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Something So Divine

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Before things come together, they have to fall apart.

 

 

“You know those are permanent, right?”

Jeongguk looks down at the freshly inked, still swollen skin on his hand. The numbers on his knuckles are black and not too thick, just like he envisioned it in his head, reading 1997 . The heart shaded just below and in-between his pointer finger and thumb is bold, daring, even. He was more than excited when he scheduled his appointment to get it done, and even more delighted when he saw the finished results. 

Now, though, the excitement fades into nothing but a hollow thump, landing in the pit of his stomach and weighing down every ounce of energy he previously had. 

“I know,” he says quietly, mostly to himself but knowing that Dokyung still hears it. “Isn’t that the point of tattoos?”

“Well yeah,” Dokyung says, looking down at Jeongguk’s hand only to avert his gaze back toward the television as if he had never tried to glance in the first place. “But you’re not gonna work at a coffee shop forever after you graduate, you know? Future employers will see that and deem it as unprofessional and who knows what else.”

“Does it at least look nice?” Jeongguk tries, hoping to pry out the reaction he had been expecting, desperate to get something, anything. 

Dokyung shrugs, like a petulant child, eyes glued to the screen in front of them. The bright light from whatever scene is playing paints his face in a light blue that fades into his hair as well. There’s not much behind his eyes but pure emptiness, like he’s not watching the TV, but looking through it. It’s the only answer Jeongguk gets. Tension clings onto the air so much so that Jeongguk has to physically get up from the sofa, treading to the kitchen, footsteps feeling heavier than normal as he gets himself a glass of water, thankful that it’s cold enough to make him feel something other than whatever he’s feeling right now. 

He looks back down at his hand, wanting to admire the work but stomach churning at the sight instead. Only a few feet away, but somehow sounding like a great distance, Dokyung calls out something about heading out for the night, getting up and giving Jeongguk a kiss and half hearted goodbye. 

Jeongguk goes to sleep wondering what he did wrong. 

A chime from the entrance rings out in the empty coffee shop, snapping Jeongguk’s attention from where it had previously been focused to on his phone. He panics for a brief moment thinking it’s a customer, but is more than relieved when he finds it to be Taehyung, his best coworker and best friend. 

A cream colored beret sits on top of his dark brown hair, paired with a matching cream sweater-vest and brown slacks. A bit too formal for a six hour shift, but Taehyung insists that an apron takes away from the outfit, thus bringing him down to the same level as Jeongguk’s simple jeans and white sweatshirt. Before Jeongguk can come up with an argument, Taehyung is rushing into his space, grabbing his wrist and tugging his hand at eye-level. 

“Let me see! Let me see!” 

A smile tugs on Jeongguk’s lips as he watches Taehyung admire the new art on his skin. Taehyung’s eyes widen in fascination, lips parting as a small wow escapes past them. He twists Jeongguk’s hand in all sorts of different angles, observing every last inch. “Did it hurt?”

Jeongguk raises his shoulders in a lazy shrug. “Not too bad, I guess. I thought it would be worse since it was on a more sensitive area.”

“They look so good though,” Taehyung praises excitedly. “Was the artist nice?”

“He was, he’s been tattooing for a while and he was really supportive.”

“I’m so happy for you,” Taehyung says softly. Jeongguk has been adamant about getting tattoos for a while now, but never had the courage to go and actually do it. That is, until now. “So, when’s the next appointment?”

Jeongguk swallows back the anxiety building up in his words that have yet to be spoken. “Um… I’m not sure, honestly. I might wait a little bit, I don’t know.”

Taehyung’s expression morphs into a confused one in a fraction of a second. “Wait? Why are you gonna wait? I thought you wanted a sleeve as soon as you could get one,I mean, haven't you been saving up for the past year?”

“It’s just—I don’t know,” Jeongguk stammers. 

“Gguk-ah.” When Jeongguk doesn’t reply, Taehyung steps closer. “Jeongguk.”

“Hyung,” Jeongguk whines, not wanting to talk about this anymore. 

“No, don’t even try. Something’s wrong and I know it is. What is it?”

Mindlessly, Jeongguk’s front teeth chew on his bottom lip. He’s not sure how to word it, or if he should even voice it at all to begin with. But if there’s anyone who he would want an opinion from, it’s Taehyung. “Um… Last night, when I got back from getting them, I invited Dokyung over because I wanted to show him.”

“Oh!” Taehyung says with a nod. “Did he like them?”

Jeongguk hesitates before subtly shaking his head. “He—he asked if I knew they were permanent and then gave me, like, a lecture about professionalism and tattoos. After that he seemed… I don’t know. He seemed like he was off. I don’t know how to describe it. He wasn’t upset or mad at me but something about him just didn’t seem right.”

“Dokyung?” Taehyung asks, expression nearing bewildered. “Really? What? Why?”

Jeongguk doesn’t even know how to respond to that. He had been just as confused, if not more confused. Up until this moment, he’s never seen his boyfriend as passive aggressive as he was last night. If anything, he’s been perfect, even more than perfect, in the three and a half years that they’ve been dating. He compliments Jeongguk, tells him that he’s everything to him, lets him know how much he’s appreciated and loved. He sends goodnight and good morning texts and paragraphs wishing Jeongguk a good day. He expresses how much he loves him and how lucky he is to have Jeongguk in his life. He buys Jeongguk dinner and listens to him ramble about his day, offering advice and comfort when he can. 

So, when Jeongguk had been met with a less than ideal reaction to something he had been so excited to show Dokyung, the confusion hurt just as much as the unneeded comments. 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says quietly, crossing his arms to hold himself. “Really.”

“Why, though?” Taehyung says. Jeongguk knows it’s a rhetorical question, so he answers with a shrug, letting Taehyung continue on his own. “Why are tattoos such a big deal? Is he against them or something?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Jeongguk answers. “We haven’t really talked about that before because I never thought it would be that big of a deal.”

“Because it isn’t,” Taehyung says quickly. “Don’t listen to him. Maybe he had a bad day or something. Your tattoos look fucking cool and if he has a problem with that he can go cry about it.”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says lamely, leaving it at that. 

It’s a little past sunset when Jeongguk finally gets home. His feet hurt from being up all day and his back hurts from bending over to restock ingredients per request from his manager. It’s been a busy enough day to distract him and keep him from being as upset as he was this morning. Dokyung texts him almost immediately. 

DOKYUNG

Hello babe, I’m not sure if you’re home yet but please let me know when you are and if you want me to come over or not. I can pick up food if you’d like too ❤️

Jeongguk reads the next over and over. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about it; Dokyung usually sends him nearly the same message around the same time. Today, though, Jeongguk isn’t sure if he wants to spend the rest of the evening with Dokyung’s company, but he knows that that would only lead to his boyfriend questioning what’s wrong, and the last thing he wants to do is start an argument. So, he replies before Dokyung can ask if he’s okay.

JEONGGUK

pick up some fried chicken pleaaaase :)

It only takes thirty minutes before Dokyung texts Jeongguk, alerting him of his arrival. Jeongguk buzzes him up quickly before heading into his small kitchen to grab some dishes just as the door opens and Dokyung walks in, bag in hand.

“Hello,” Dokyung calls in a sing-song voice, toeing off his shoes and making his way into the kitchen. He places the bags onto the counter, coming up behind Jeongguk to give him a back-hug. “I brought extra for Namjoon hyung if he wants some.”

Jeongguk subtly moves away from his touch, going towards the fridge to grab drinks. Namjoon, his roommate and other best friend, doesn’t get home from his shift at the convenience store until just after midnight. It’s been like this for the last few months, so he’s not sure why Dokyung would assume that Namjoon is here. Then again, Jeongguk knows that his subconscious is looking for more reasons to be upset. 

“He’s working,” Jeongguk says, handing Dokyung a soda can. “His shifts haven’t really changed.”

“Ah, that’s right,” Dokyung hums, snapping his fingers. “Well, more for us, then.”

Jeongguk hums his own agreement, helping himself to a few drumsticks, not waiting for Dokyung as he goes to sit down at the small, circular dining table Namjoon had thrifted—one of his prized possessions. Dokyung joins him only a few seconds later, taking the seat next to Jeongguk. They eat in silence for a few minutes before Dokyung nudges their shoulders together gently, forcing Jeongguk to look up at him. 

“Are you okay?”

And there it is. “I’m fine,” Jeongguk mumbles, shoving a piece of chicken in his mouth, hoping that it’ll be enough to end the conversation that he has no interest being in. 

“You seem off, babe,” Dokyung says, eyebrows creased and dark eyes filled with genuine concern. Jeongguk’s heart flutters for a second before he wills the feeling away out of pure pettiness. 

“I’m good,” Jeongguk insists.

Dokyung sighs, placing his hand on Jeongguk’s thigh. “You can talk to me about whatever’s bothering you, you know? I’m always here for you.”

Somehow, it doesn’t make Jeongguk feel any better, but he nods anyway. “I know, thank you.”

Dokyung smiles, leaning to give Jeongguk a kiss on the head before going back to his meal. “So, how was your day?”

Jeongguk lets his shoulders sag in both relief and exhaustion. Maybe he’s been overthinking it all. Maybe Dokyung was genuinely trying to give Jeongguk some mindful advice, and not trying to dictate what he can or can’t do with his body. After all, Dokyung loves him and has said millions of times that he adores everything about Jeongguk. It would take a lot to have that ripped away all of a sudden, especially over something like tattoos. That must be it. Jeongguk has always been an overthinker, anyway.

So, Jeongguk rambles about every small detail of his day, everything from dropping an iced macchiato to almost slipping on an ice cube on his way to the bathroom. And Dokyung listens intently, laughing and giving comments any chance he gets. 

Jeongguk goes to bed feeling alright.

The familiar smell of disinfectant and the dull sound of buzzing fills Jeongguk’s senses as he walks into the tattoo shop he had been (sort of) avoiding for the last few months. Now that autumn has rolled around and is only about a month away from bleeding into winter, it’ll be easier to cover any added works he plans on getting. And hopefully by the time spring ebbs into summer and his short sleeved shirts make a comeback, everyone will be pleasantly surprised at the art suddenly painting Jeongguk’s arms. Hopefully.

Nervously, Jeongguk looks around, internal panic starting to settle in when he doesn’t immediately see his tattoo artist in sigh. 

“Jeongguk-ah!” Jeongguk’s gaze snaps towards the back where the artist is emerging from, dressed in all black, contrasting greatly with his silver hair peeking out of his backward, black baseball cap. “You’re early.”

“Sorry, Yoongi-ssi,” Jeongguk apologizes quickly, cheeks burning red in embarrassment. “I overestimated how long the subway ride here was and—”

“You’re okay, Jeongguk,” Yoongi says quickly. “I was gonna thank you for that, actually. It’ll give us more time to get settled and comfortable. Plus, it’s better than you being late, so thank you.”

Jeongguk’s blush comes back just as easily as before, even as Yoongi laughs and points towards his station, gesturing for him to sit down as he gets the stencils printed for today. Jeongguk wills himself to relax into the seat, taking a look at the interior of the shop to give himself something else to focus on. 

The white walls are decorated with flash sheets containing a multitude of designs from each artist in the shop. Horror film posters are frames and mounted every couple of feet. Judging by the tattoos of Jason Voorhees and Ghostface on Yoongi’s arms, Jeongguk assumes it was his doing. 

After what seems like only a few minutes, Yoongi comes back with four different sized stencils of the two designs he had worked on for Jeongguk. One being a skeleton hand doing a rock sign, and the other being two quotes overlapping with one other in an X pattern. 

Yoongi separates the pieces of paper in his little work station, leaning back so Jeongguk can get a better look. “What sizes were you thinking?”

Jeongguk slowly scans all his options. For the skeleton hand, he’s been thinking of going smaller. The quotes, on the other hand, he wants to take up a good amount of space. When he voices this to Yoongi, Yoongi nods like he knows exactly what Jeongguk is talking about, choosing the proper size and holding them near where Jeongguk wants them. “What do you think about here?”

Jeongguk looks them over, giving a nod of approval. Yoongi nods, wiping down the skin and applying a cream on it before pressing the stencils in, leaving behind a purple tint of ink. “Let’s go to the mirror and check it out just so you can be sure that these are the placements that you want,” Yoongi says, getting up and cocking his head to the side towards where a full-body mirror is placed. After getting a look at the placements from every angle he can think of, Jeongguk gives the final okay, startling slightly when Yoongi claps his hands once in excitement. “Alright! Let’s get started!”

If Jeongguk is thankful for one thing, it’s that Yoongi is genuinely a cool person. Their conversations flow naturally and he’s never left feeling like he’s being embarrassing or too much. It makes time go by incredibly fast, and before they know it, Yoongi is bandaging him up. 

“They turned out amazing,” Jeongguk beams, staring down at the swollen skin. The apples of his cheeks hurt from smiling too much but he can’t find it in himself to care. He can already envision how the completed sleeve is going to look and he feels like every cell in his body is buzzing with excitement. “Thank you, Yoongi-ssi.”

“Yoongi hyung,” Yoongi corrects with a wink. “I feel like we’re past the formality. Just let me know when you wanna book your next appointment, and send me your drawings. I’d be more than happy to tattoo your works on you if you’d like.”

“Yeah, yeah of course,” Jeongguk says quickly, ecstatic that Yoongi had recalled one of their many conversations. “I’ll text you?”

“Sounds good,” Yoongi says with a nod. “Have a safe night, kid.”

The subway ride home after class is as uneventful as usual. By the time Jeongguk gets home, he’s ready to call it a night, but his plans are cut short when he gets to his apartment and is greeted by Namjoon and Dokyung on the sofa. 

“Oh, hey Jeongguk,” Namjoon says, standing up and stretching his arms over his head. “We were wondering where you were.”

“You didn’t text me,” Dokyung says, turning his body to face Jeongguk still standing in the entrance. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says quickly. “I was just busy.”

Dokyung pauses, confused. “Busy?”

“I, uh,” Jeongguk starts, picking at the cuticles around his nails as he speaks. “I had a tattoo appointment.”

Dokyung’s face morphs from worried to blank in less than a second. “Oh.”

“Cool!” Namjoon cheers, making his way to Jeongguk. “Where is it?”

Jeongguk unzips his jacket, carefully snaking his arm out the sleeve to display it to Namjoon who leans in to get a closer look. “I’m starting my sleeve.”

“This is awesome,” Namjoon says in awe. “The sleeve’s gonna look sick.”

Jeongguk glances up at Dokyung, only to find him with his attention on his phone, ignoring the situation as a whole. Jeongguk’s blood boils for a moment before simmering down and running cold altogether. Really? “Yeah, I’m gonna be designing most of it,” Jeongguk says, deciding to just get excited with Namjoon instead. “Yoongi hyung, my tattoo artist, is really cool and willing to work with me so I’m really excited to see how it’ll all turn out.”

“Nice,” Namjoon says with a nod. “Keep me updated on that!”

Jeongguk nods, pressing his lips together in a smile before he goes to sit next to Dokyung. When Dokyung doesn’t react to Jeongguk’s presence, Jeongguk nudges their shoulders together, finally eliciting a response from his boyfriend. “Hm?”

“Did you see them?” Jeongguk presses, annoyance getting the best of him. 

“See what?”

Jeongguk holds his arm out. “My tattoos.”

Dokyung glances at them for half a second before looking away. “Yeah, I did.”

An awkward silence settles between them. From behind, Jeongguk can hear Namjoon tiptoeing into his room, most likely to seek refuge from whatever the fuck is going on in the living room. “So,” Jeongguk starts again. “What do you think?”

“What do you mean?”

“Dokyung,” Jeongguk sighs. “About my tattoos?”

“What do you want me to say, Jeongguk?” Dokyung asks, rolling his eyes. “I just don’t like tattoos.”

It’s one of the responses Jeongguk had been expecting to hear, but it doesn’t make the pang in his chest hurt any less. “Not—not even on me?”

“I would prefer you without them,” Dokyung says quietly. “It’s a preference.”

Jeongguk swallows down the lump in his throat. His tongue traces over his own teeth before me smacks his lips together and nods. “Okay, you can leave.”

“What?” Dokyung says, louder than before, eyes wide in shock. “Jeongguk—”

“Please, Dokyung,” Jeongguk begs. “We’ll talk tomorrow. I just… I need the night to myself please.”

They hold eye contact for about a minute before Dokyung lets out a heavy breath. “I’m sorry.” 

Jeongguk doesn’t respond, waiting for the sound of the door closing until he lets his body sag against the sofa, melting into the material. 

What the fuck?

“What the fuck?”

Jeongguk can’t help the laugh he lets out. He expected nothing less from Taehyung. “I wish I was kidding.”

“Who the fuck is he to tell you what his ‘preferences’ are?” Taehyung continues, aggressively wiping down a spill he had caused less than a minute ago. “Did he have these ‘preferences’ when you guys started dating? Even if he did, isn’t he supposed to love you no matter what? Does it really take tattoos to fucking question all of that? Like, really? I thought only old people hated tattoos, what man in his twenties doesn’t think tattoos are at least a little cool? What a fucking asshole.”

“I get it to an extent,” Jeongguk says, trying his best to justify everything that happened last night. “Preferences are valid, right?”

“Not if they’re literally saying that they’d ‘prefer you’ without tattoos as if you can take them off,” Taehyung says angrily. “And it’s your body? What kind of preference is no tattoos on someone? It’s fine to not want them on yourself but who are you to judge what someone else does to their own body? I’ll never understand that, Jeongguk. I’m sorry, but I won’t.”

“I know,” Jeongguk says quietly, toying with the hem of his apron to distract himself from any tears that have a possibility of falling. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Talk to him about it,” Taehyung says, getting closer to Jeongguk to wrap a comforting arm around his shoulder. “Tell him that this is something that’s really personal to you and that it hurts when he dismisses it like that.”

“Okay,” Jeongguk says through a deep breath. Confrontation has never been his strong suit. Not only that, but arguments are something he would rather avoid at all costs. There’s only been a few, small fights between him and Dokyung and while they’ve never been terrible, they’ve been stressful. The last thing he wants to do is get anyone upset. 

Unfortunately, the day passes by too quickly for Jeongguk’s liking and before he knows it he’s on his way to Dokyung’s apartment. There are a million different ways this could go, but at this point Jeongguk is expecting the worst case scenario to play out. 

Dokyung senses his anxiety the second he lets Jeongguk in. “What’s wrong, babe?”

Jeongguk swallows roughly. Might as well get it over with. “Can—can we talk?”

Dokyung looks just as nervous. “Uh, yeah. Yeah, sure. Did… Did I do something wrong?”

Jeongguk goes into the living room, pacing in front of the coffee table to ease his nerves. Should he lie? No, the whole point of this is to be honest and express his feelings. “I’m just gonna say what I wanna say and you can say your part when I’m done. Is that okay?” Dokyung nods, hesitating before sitting down on the sofa, attention on Jeongguk. Jeongguk takes a deep breath before starting. 

“I’m sorry if I come off mean or anything, but I just wanna tell you what I’m feeling right now and I don’t really know how to word it properly. But, um, I know you don’t like or care for tattoos, which is fine, I respect that. But I like them, and they mean a lot to me. Especially the ones that I have. And when you get dismissive and upset about me having them… it makes me feel like shit, Dokyung. It makes me feel like I’m not good enough or like you can’t stand to look at me, and maybe I’m being kind of dramatic and I’m sorry but I hate feeling like this, Dokyung. I hate how you’re making me feel.”

Jeongguk can see the tears in Dokyung’s eyes, even from the small distance they’re at. “I just don’t like tattoos on you, Jeongguk,” Dokyung finally says. “Is that so wrong? To like you the way that you are without any modifications? I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings, okay? But I was just sharing how I felt.”

Jeongguk blinks three times, trying to understand why the fuck it feels like he should be apologizing. “And you’re just gonna ignore how I feel?”

“We can compromise,” Dokyung says quickly, standing and stepping around his coffee table towards Jeongguk, reaching out like he wants to touch him but isn’t sure if he can. “I’ll be okay if you don’t get too many, you know? Like, if you keep yourself how you are now, it’s not that bad. I just don’t like it when you can’t even see someone’s skin through all the tattoos. It doesn’t look right, it doesn’t look natural.”

Jeongguk can't help the scoff that leaves his mouth. He shakes his head, looking down at his socks to gather his thoughts. “Have a good night, Dokyung.”

“Jeongguk, wait—”

“I need a few days to myself,” Jeongguk snaps. “I just… I need to think about a few things.”

“We can work through this, babe,” Dokyung begs, tears finally spilling over. “Don’t go—”

Jeongguk finishes pulling his shoes on just as Dokyung starts following him out. He rushes to leave before he can even think twice about it.

Namjoon is in the kitchen microwaving food when Jeongguk gets home. He’s always been able to read moods fairly quickly, and before Jeongguk can even open his mouth, Namjoon is rushing towards him. “What happened?”

The tears and sadness building up collapses all at once. A high pitched sob escapes from Jeongguk before he can stop it, and the tears suddenly streaming down his face are hot against his skin. Namjoon doesn’t question him any further, holding Jeongguk against his chest and walking him to the sofa, sitting first and gathering Jeongguk in his arms once again. His fingers run through Jeongguk’s hair, untangling small knots that have formed throughout the day.

Eventually, Jeongguk clears the roughness in his throat, parting his dry lips to speak through the silence around them. “I think I’m gonna break up with Dokyung.”

Namjoon’s hand stills for a second before continuing threading back through Jeongguk’s hair. A subtle indication that Jeongguk’s words were enough to shock him. “Can I ask why or do you wanna not talk about it?”

Jeongguk shrugs. He’ll have to explain it at some point and it might as well be now. “He, uh… We don’t really agree on the whole tattoo thing.”

Namjoon pulls away from where they’re tangled together to give Jeongguk a dumbfounded expression. “Huh?”

“He doesn’t like them,” Jeongguk explains, voice void of any sort of emotion. “I like them. He said he’d prefer me without them, I prefer myself with them. It’s… It’s been frustrating.”

“I had a feeling he wasn’t too happy about them,” Namjoon says gently. “It got really awkward the other day when you mentioned them.”

“Yeah… I’m sorry.”

“Why? It’s not your fault,” Namjoon says quickly. “That’s something he has to get over. It’s your body and you can do what you want with it. If he has an issue with that, he doesn’t have to be with you.”

“He doesn’t wanna break up,” Jeongguk whispers. “And… I don’t either.”
Namjoon hums understandingly. “Not sure if you actually wanna break up?”

“I love him,” Jeongguk answers like it explains the mess going on inside his head. Is it worth it?

“How about you talk to all of us about it and we give you our opinions from an outside perspective?” Namjoon offers. “Would that help?”

Jeongguk perks up at the idea. “Yeah, actually. That would be nice.”

“Alright, I’ll call an emergency meeting tomorrow,” Namjoon says, patting Jeongguk’s head. “Go to sleep, Gguk-ah. Rest.”

Jeongguk nods, thankful to have the support of his friends.

The next morning, Namjoon, Taehyung, and Jeongguk are gathered in the living room. Taehyung, still in his matching pajama set, taps his foot impatiently on the rug, checking his phone for the time before huffing. “Where the fuck is Hoseok hyung? He’s never late.”

“I’m sure he’ll be here any second,” Namjoon assures right as the door opens and Hoseok comes in with a drink holder balancing in his hands and a paper bag tucked between his upper arm and side.

“Sorry I’m late, I stopped to get us breakfast!” Hoseok says with his heart-shaped smile, holding out the drinks for Namjoon to take. He hands the bag to Taehyung who mumbles a thanks out before digging through the contents as Hoseok takes off his hat, tousling his light brown hair into a more presentable style. “So, why are we here?”

“Jeongguk-ah,” Namjoon calls, gesturing for Jeongguk to begin speaking.

“Right,” Jeongguk says, clearing his throat and taking the drink Namjoon offers him. He waits until the three of them are settled on the sofa and takes his position in front of them, feeling like he’s giving a presentation. It’s a bit much all in all, but at least he has their attention. 

“I’ve been thinking about breaking up with Dokyung and I’m not sure if I wanting to do it or if I even should do it and I need your opinions,” Jeongguk rushes out in one breath, earning three surprised looks, mostly from the shock at the speed of the words. 

“Is it because of the tattoos?” Taehyung asks. “Because I think you absolutely should—”

“He doesn’t know if he actually wants to,” Namjoon interrupts. “It’s not an easy decision.”

“How about,” Hoseok suggests. “How about we make a list. Like, things that you love about him and things that you don’t really like. And based on that, we can decide if being with him is worth it or not.

Jeongguk blinks. “That’s… That’s actually a really good idea.”

“I started the dislike list already,” Taehyung says, pulling out his phone. “Number one, he doesn’t like musicals—”
“Okay,” Namjoon says over him. “Let's get something to write them down on, and we work with the positive list first. How about that?”

Taehyung reluctantly agrees, putting his phone away and crossing his arms. They get started on the list immediately. It isn’t hard for Jeongguk to list all the things he loves about Dokyung.

GOOD! — Good listener, makes me laugh, cooks for me, always happy to see me, affectionate, tells me he loves me all the time, nice

“Okay,” Namjoon says once Jeongguk says he thinks that’s everything. “Now, what isn’t so great about him?”

“He hates musicals,” Taehyung says quickly, making Hoseok laugh and Namjoon roll his eyes.

“That doesn’t count. I mean things about his character,” Namjoon explains. “Like the whole tattoo thing. Let’s let Jeongguk list them.”

“Okay,” Jeongguk nods. “So, um. I don’t like how inconsiderate he is about the tattoo thing. It’s my body, I can do what I want with it.”

“Exactly,” Hoseok agrees. “Let’s branch off from that. What else?”

Jeongguk pauses to think and memories begin flooding in. “I’ve been wanting my eyebrow pierced for a while,” he starts slowly. “He said he didn’t think it would look good. I didn’t think much of it, it was a quick conversation that we moved on from…”

Namjoon writes it down. “Okay, that’s a start—”

“I also wanted to dye my hair at the beginning of the year,” Jeongguk says. “He said unnatural hair colors are weird and that my hair is nice how it is now. And that I should keep it short because he doesn’t like long hair… I brushed it off because I thought it was a compliment, but now I don’t really think it is.”

“What the fuck?” Taehyung says loudly, angry. “Why didn’t you tell us this, Gguk?”

“I didn’t think much of it,” Jeongguk explains. “And he doesn’t like when I drink if we’re out. I thought maybe it was because he wanted me safe, but now…”

“Jeongguk,” Hoseok says softly. “That’s really controlling of him.”

It’s a realization that dawns on Jeongguk so suddenly he feels his knees wobble. “I know.”

“That’s a good enough reason,” Taehyung says, standing up and taking the small whiteboard Namjoon is holding and erasing the black ink, snatching the marker up and writing CONTROLLING !!! and holding it up for Jeongguk to read. “That’s the only reason you need, Jeongguk. You’re your own person with your own thoughts and wants and needs. There’s no if, ands, or buts. Period, point blank. No one is worth it.”

It feels like the world is slowly crumbling under Jeongguk’s feet. It’s the answer he didn’t want, but he knows is right. “Break up with him?”

All three of them nod, Hoseok and Namjoon with more hesitation than Taehyung. Jeongguk lets out a shaky breath. There’s no way this is gonna be easy.

He invites Dokyung over, letting his friends seek refuge in Namjoon’s room in quiet support. His hands shake as he lets Dokyung in and his chest feels empty and cold. Dokyung’s eyes are swollen, a subtle indication that he’s been crying. Jeongguk wordlessly points him towards the sofa, letting him sit first before he follows awkwardly. An uncomfortable quietness fills the empty spaces in the room as Jeongguk does his best to compose himself before talking. Dokyung is— was— his first boyfriend, and he was pretty sure that he would be his last as well. After three years together, having gotten together when they were both eighteen, he had expected this to last. Hell, his parents love Dokyung. Dokyung’s parents love Jeongguk. He doesn’t even know how to break up with someone.

“I think we should break up.”

Maybe not like that. 

Dokyung’s eyes go wide, filling up with tears in an instant. “Break up? No, Jeongguk, please. I’m sorry, okay? You—you can get all the tattoos that you want and I won’t say anything. Please, don’t—don’t do this.”

“Dokyung,” Jeongguk sighs sympathetically. “It… It goes beyond the whole tattoo situation. We have very different views on things and… I don’t wanna be with someone who I’m so scared of disappointing all the time. Someone who makes me do things or not do things just because they don’t like it. It’s not good, Dokyung and I’m sorry but I just can’t.”

“So, that’s it?” Dokyung asks quietly, eyes refusing to meet Jeongguk’s. “Just like that, we’ve both wasted three years of our lives?”

“We’re both young,” Jeongguk says with a shrug, trying not to let his voice waver. “We’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, just not with each other.”

There’s a silence before Dokyung nods. Jeongguk stands up, pointing to a box with Dokyung’s things and presents from him that Taehyung happily gathered. “Those are yours. You can throw away all of my stuff, I don’t care.”

Dokyung hesitates before grabbing the box. They stand there with the tension practically screaming between them. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, Dokyung goes to leave. “I’ll always love you, Gguk,” Dokyung says quietly as he leaves.

Once the door closes, Jeongguk finally lets his body go limp, collapsing on the sofa as sobs begin to erupt from the deepest parts of him drowning in sorry. His friends come rushing out of the room, quick to comfort him and offer their kind words.

“You’ll find someone better.”

“You don’t need him in your life.”

“He’s not worth your tears.”

As much as Jeongguk wants to agree, he doesn’t think he’ll find a love like this again. It only makes everything hurt more.

Jeongguk takes the break-up harder than he, and his friends expected. It takes him three months to get back into his normal routine and to stop randomly breaking down throughout the day and to stop blaming himself for the end of the relationship.

Not only that, but he puts a hold on getting his sleeve completed. Yoongi reaches out to him more than once, telling him not to rush but that he hopes Jeongguk is okay. Jeongguk appreciates that, at the very least. 

When he goes home for the holidays and his parents ask where Dokyung is, he realizes that, while being so caught up in trying to keep himself together, he forgot to tell his parents. 

“I… I broke up with him,” Jeongguk says, closing his eyes and expecting nothing but disapproval. 

“Oh,” his mother says. “Well, are you doing alright?”

Jeongguk opens his eyes, finally looking up at his parents who are looking at him with subtle concern. “I’m okay,” he says slowly.

His father nods. “Why did you break up? If you’re okay with us knowing, that is.”

“I just… I realized he was a bit controlling,” Jeongguk explains lightly, not wanting his parents to hate Dokyung. Somehow still trying to paint him in the best light. “And we didn’t agree on certain things. I don’t think I could’ve been fully happy with him.”

“I’m sorry it ended,” his mother says, sympathetically hugging Jeongguk. “But I’m proud of you for knowing what you want, dear. That’s all that matters.”

“We’re proud of you,” Jeongguk’s father corrects, earning a glare from his wife. “As long as you find happiness, that’s what’s important to us.”

Jeongguk smiles, feeling better about the situation for the first time.

“Welcome back,” Yoongi says, giving Jeongguk a quick hug. “I thought I’d never see you again.”

“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk says, bashful. “It’s been a rough few months.”

“It’s been four months,” Yoongi clarifies. “You seemed excited to add some more to your sleeve. Are you having second thoughts?”

“No! No, I wanna do this,” Jeongguk says quickly. “I just had a few setbacks, is all.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re back,” Yoongi says, leading Jeongguk to his section. “Are you ready?”

“More than ready.”

Jeongguk gets two tattoos in one session. With both being rather big, they take up a lot of space, making his arm look more filled than it previously was. When he leaves the tattoo parlor, he carefully pulls his zip-up hoodie on to protect himself from the cold, winter air and also to hide the work. Part of him doesn’t want to reveal it until it’s complete, but the other part of him can’t help but feel a bit insecure. Dokyung’s words echo in his head, making him second guess himself. What if he doesn’t suit tattoos? What if he genuinely does look better without them?

He goes home right away, heading straight to his room before Namjoon can get home. He hadn’t told his friends about his appointment so that he wouldn’t be forced to show them the new additions to his arms. He knows it’s ridiculous, but can’t shake the insecurities beginning to flood his mind.

He goes to sleep in a long sleeve shirt.


July is hot. Even when the sun sinks behind the horizon, the heat lingers in the air, trapping every citizen and suffocating them, forcing them to seek refuge in cool buildings that offer air conditioning. 

The bar they’re at is crowded enough for the air conditioning to practically be useless. Despite all this, Jeongguk refuses to push up the sleeves of his shirts. He knows his friends know—they had begged him to share the most recent pieces added to his sleeve and he had agreed after Taehyung threatened to cry. 

He had gotten over actively trying to hide his tattoos from his friends after Namjoon had noticed the new art and asked Jeongguk why he didn’t want to share. After getting emotional and telling Namjoon that he didn’t want them judging, Namjoon had held him and assured him that they all love and appreciate his tattoos and they would never judge him for something that makes him happy.

The thing is, Jeongguk isn’t really sure if it makes him happy anymore.

Tonight, though, he tries to forget about that. He just recently stopped feeling guilty for publicly ordering a drink, and he’s determined to have a good night tonight.

Hoseok takes it upon himself to order Jeongguk drink after drink, ensuring that he has the best night possible, even if he prefers to spend it in the booth they’re sitting at.

“Your hair is getting so long!” Taehyung comments, twirling a strand of Jeongguk’s hair. “It suits you really well!”

“Yeah?” Jeongguk asks, lips tilting into a smile. He had been wanting to grow his hair out for a while now, but didn’t realize he had been accidentally doing it until recently. It barely reaches the tops of his ears, but it’s the longest he’s had it in a while.

“Don’t cut it!” Namjoon demands, cheeks already red from the alcohol getting to him. “It looks good, fuck what anyone says! Don’t cut it until it’s down to your ass!”

Jeongguk laughs loudly, throwing himself back as the force of his cackles take over him. “N-no! That’s too long!”

“I can braid it!” Hoseok offers. “My sister taught me how to braid, so I could braid it for you if you want!”

“No,” Jeongguk giggles, feeling light and happy. “It’s not gonna be that long.”

“Ah, you’re no fun,” Taehyung sighs, slouching against the back of the booth, shoulder slumping. 

“I have to pee,” Jeongguk mumbles, wiggling his way out of the booth. “I’ll be back.”

He gets two thumbs up and one mumbled reply before he makes his way towards the restroom, doing his best to avoid running into anyone on his way there. Thankfully, the restroom is mostly empty. 

He finishes his business and rolls up his sleeves to wash his hands, lathering them in soap with intense focus. The door opens and two older women stumble in, obviously intoxicated. Jeongguk startles, eyes wide as he stares at them.

“Oops!” One of them says. “Wrong room—oh, you’re cute!”

“He is!” The other one says. She glances down at his arms, pouting and cheeks puffed. “Aw, so many tattoos! You’re so young, honey, why would you do that to yourself?”

The other one tsks, “Ah, all the kids are doing it nowadays. What a shameful way to ruin your body.”

They both talk amongst themselves as they turn back around, leaving Jeongguk alone with shaking hands. He doesn’t even try drying his hands before he’s heading back to the booth, suddenly sober. 

“What’s wrong?” Namjoon asks right away. “Did you piss on the floor?”

Jeongguk shakes his head, trying his best to give Namjoon a smile and failing. “No, I just… Is it okay if I leave?”

Taehyung and Hoseok exchange a silent look with one another before Taehyung speaks up. “We’ll all leave, this place is boring anyway.”

Before Jeongguk can feel guilty as they all shuffle out of the booth, Hoseok wraps an arm around his shoulder. “I think we should watch Iron Man, what do you think? We can have a little movie night at mine and Taehyung’s.”

“Only if we watch The Avengers,” Namjoon chimes in.

Jeongguk gives them a soft smile, appreciating their attempts at making him feel better. “Yeah, we can do that.”

The last session of Jeongguk’s sleeve falls in the middle of the next December. Yoongi finishes it off with one of Jeongguk’s designs on his inner biceps, black filling in most of the empty space there and the words standing out, untouched, still the natural color of his skin. It completes the sleeve so beautifully that Jeongguk can’t help but gasp when he sees it in the mirror. He’s learned that this is something for himself and no one else. But with that, he keeps his tattoos to himself and the people closest to him. They’re the only people that have opinions that matter, after all.

Yoongi pulls his black, latex gloves off, pulling his phone out of his pocket to take pictures of the completed piece. “This turned out amazing.”

“It really did,” Jeongguk nods, eyes unmoving from the freshly inked skin. “Only took about two years, right?”

Yoongi lets out a long whistle. “God, time flies, doesn’t it?”

“It really does.”

As Yoongi cleans up his station and Jeongguk sends pictures to the group chat, Yoongi begins speaking again. “So, Seokjin and I are having a New Years party. Would you and the rest of the guys be down to come?”

“Oh,” Jeongguk says, interested. Within the last year, he and Yoongi have become pretty good friends. With that friendship, came his friendship with Seokjin, Yoongi’s boyfriend of six years. Every now and then, all six of them get together, whether it be for dinner or drinks at a bar, but never at each other’s homes. It would be nice to take their friendships  to that level. “Yeah, of course. I’m sure they’ll all be happy to come.”

“Cool, I’ll let Seokjin know.”

Jeongguk relays his information to the group chat and is met with the response he had been expecting.

TAEHYUNG

YESSSSS

yoongi hyung knows how to drink unlike u guys

NAMJOON

i should be free so yeah why not

HOSEOK

ive been missing them so yeeeeaaah!!

party partyyyy~

Yoongi and Seokjin’s apartment rent probably costs more than all four of them combined. When they get to the complex, all packed into Hoseok’s ten year old Hyundai Sonata with the red paint chipping and the brakes squealing every time he so much as slows down, they’re forced to go through a security guard just before the gate. 

“We’re here to see Min Yoongi,” Hoseok says, voice cracking slightly making Taehyung snort in the back seat. “I’m Jung Hoseok, that’s Kim Namjoon, and back there we have Jeon Jeongguk and the gremlin you see under your bed at night—”

Taehyung kicks the driver's seat with full force, cutting Hoseok off as he groans in pain. The security guard looks less than amused, asking for Hoseok’s ID before finally letting them pass through. 

“My back,” Hoseok whines once they’re parked. “It’s gonna bruise!”

“Good,” Taehyung chirps, fixing the red beret in his hair. “You deserve it.”

“Enough, children,” Namjoon says, already sounding exhausted. “The night’s just begun.”

Jeongguk smooths out the wrinkles in his black jeans, praying that no lint is sticking to his ass and potentially ruining his outfit. It’s rare that he gets to get all dressed up, so he took the opportunity to make himself feel good. Underneath his black, leather jacket is a simple white t-shirt. His hair is long enough now to be pulled into a half-bun that he had to redo three times before he was satisfied with it. Paired along with the outfit are his black stomper boots that he had purchased for his birthday and never got the chance to wear until now. He feels good. It’s a nice feeling. 

The interior of the apartment is just as nice as he was expecting it to be. The modern, open layout is big enough to occupy at least a hundred people. Luckily, though, there’s not too many guests. Probably thirty at the most. 

Yoongi is the first one to spot them, waving them over to the kitchen. “Glad you guys could make it.”

“Are you gonna get me drunk or not?” Taehyung asks immediately, making Yoongi raise his eyebrow in amusement. He hands Taehyung the drink he had been drinking. 

“There, just for you. I’ll make the rest of you something right now.”

Taehyung sighs dreamily as Yoongi walks further into the kitchen, just out of hearing distance. “Why do all the hot ones have to be taken?”

“We’ll find you someone tonight,” Namjoon promises, patting his back in support. 

Yoongi comes back with more ingredients, making small conversation as he mixes drinks and hands them out to each of the others. Seokjin comes up behind him a few seconds later, resting his chin on Yoongi’s head. 

“Long time, no see,” Seokjin says. “Are you all here to mooch off of us?”

“Absolutely,” Taehyung says without missing a beat. 

“That and because we need more social interaction outside of our friend group,” Namjoon says, making Seokjin scowl. 

“Wow. And I thought you were all here because you love and miss me.”

“I love and miss you!” Hoseok argues. 

“What about you, brat?” Seokjin asks, tilting his head at Jeongguk. 

“Free drinks,” Jeongguk says, making Yoongi chuckle and Seokjin gasp. 

“You can leave,” Seokjin jokes. “I’m not even sure if you’re allowed to be drinking.”

“Aish, shut up,” Jeongguk laughs, cheeks red. Eventually their conversations begin to escalate from Seokjin’s job to Hoseok and Taehyung's issue with the plumbing in their bathroom. Somehow, Yoongi seems to know a lot about that sort of stuff, boring Jeongguk to no end. Namjoon nudges their shoulders together. “Let’s go mingle, yeah?”

As much as Jeongguk wants to say no, he knows that Namjoon prefers to take the opportunity to make new friends, so he agrees and reluctantly follows. 

Eventually, they end up sitting down on the vast sectional that takes up most of Seokjin and Yoongi’s living room. Jeongguk takes it upon himself to claim the two-seater, making himself small in the corner and absentmindedly listening to Namjoon make acquaintances from the near corner of the other sofa, only a few centimeters from Jeongguk’s right. 

He rests his elbow on the arm of the sofa and his chin on his hand, legs crossed and shaking to provide him with some sort of entertainment. With the amount of people around, it doesn’t take long for Jeongguk to get hot. He shrugs off his jacket without thinking much of it, resting it in his lap and trying his best to tune back into the conversation he knows he has no part in. 

Just as he’s mentally checking back out the conversation, the space next to him dips suddenly, causing him to turn quickly, expecting to find Taehyung or Hoseok occupying the space. 

Instead, he’s more than surprised to find himself staring at a pretty, pink-haired man. Pretty would be an understatement, actually. Jeongguk feels his breath get knocked out of him when their eyes meet and he’s forced to acknowledge his existence. 

His eyes are brown and soft, shining even under the dull lighting surrounding them. His lips are well-defined, a light, rosy color that can only be a flavored chapstick. His pink hair is parted down the middle and framing his face. He’s wearing a black button up with the top four buttons all undone, a matching blazer pulled over that, and a few silver necklaces. His ring clad fingers come up to push back a stray strand that falls in front of his eye as he blinks. 

“Sorry,” he says, voice just as beautiful as him. “Did I scare you?”

“A little,” Jeongguk says honestly, confused as to what could have prompted all of this. Had he accidentally taken someone’s seat? Did people even claim seats during get-togethers like this? 

“I’m sorry,” he says again with a small laugh, tilting his head down bashfully. “I came over here to say that I really like your tattoos. 

Jeongguk blinks once, then twice, then three times trying to make sure that he heard correctly. “What?”

“Your tattoos,” the man says with another laugh. His hand reaches out, fingertips gently tracing over the crossed quotes, leaving Jeongguk’s skin in flames. “They’re really nice.”

“Oh, thank you,” Jeongguk says, breathless, not sure if he’s hallucinating or not. 

“I should probably introduce myself before touching you, Jesus Christ I’m so sorry,” he says, snatching his hand away. “I’m Jimin, Park Jimin, and I like your tattoos a lot.”

“Jeon Jeongguk,” Jeongguk says with a small smile, accepting the handshake that Jimin offers. He looks down at their hands and sees a small 13 on Jimin’s wrist and takes the opportunity. “I like your tattoo a lot, too.”

Jimin looks down at their unmoving hands and laughs. “Ah, thank you. I don’t have as much as you do but I think they’re alright, I guess.”

“Oh, more than this one?”

Jimin shrugs prettily, smile on his lips. “Surprise?” 

“Where are they?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Oh, no, not like that!” Jeongguk stammers. “I—I was just curious because this is the only one I can see and—”

“You’re okay, I promise,” Jimin says quickly, placing his hand on Jeongguk’s thigh. “I’m joking. I have one above each elbow and then one on my ribs. Nothing too exciting, unfortunately.”

“Tattoos are pretty exciting,” Jeongguk says and Jimin smiles. 

“Yeah, they are, aren’t they?”

Not wanting the conversation to end, Jeongguk speaks up before it can get awkward. “So, um. Who did yours?”

“My tattoos?” Jeongguk nods. Jimin looks up in thought, pointing to his ribs. “This one was my first one and it was some guy in Busan, I don’t remember his name but he was okay. His hand was a bit heavy so it hurt like a bitch, but it healed decently. My other two were done by my friend, Min Yoongi.”

“Oh, me too,” Jeongguk says, excited. “He did all of mine, actually.”

“Small world,” Jimin hums. “I’ll have to yell at him for not introducing us sooner.” A blush crawls up Jeongguk’s cheeks before he can stop it and Jimin notices it right away, smirking. “It’s kind of hot in here, right? Do you wanna get some fresh air on the balcony?”

Jeongguk nods, mostly because it is starting to feel abnormally hot and some cold air will most likely do him good. Jimin stands first, waiting for Jeongguk to follow as he leads the way towards the glass doors that lead to the decent sized balcony. 

Instead of sitting on the outdoor lounge chairs, Jeongguk shrugs on his jacket and rests his arms on the iron railing of the balcony, letting the cold air rush onto him. Jimin stands next to him, back against the cold iron as he crosses his arms to most likely warm himself a bit. 

“I’m from Busan, too,” Jeongguk says after a moment. 

“Yeah? How long have you been in Seoul?”

“Four years, I think,” Jeongguk answers easily. “What about you?”

“Six years,” Jimin answers. “I originally came to be a back-up dancer but those dreams are behind me now.”

“Oh,” Jeongguk says, interested. “What do you do now?”

“I’m a teacher,” Jimin says with a nod. “High school dance. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I love it and it’s within my interests, so I can’t complain. What about you? What do you do?”

“I’m a barista,” Jeongguk says, embarrassment starting to color his face. He feels inferior compared to Jimin who seems like he has his shit together pretty well. “I graduated in June, but I’m not too focused on finding anything serious yet.”

“There’s no rush when it comes to finding a job that’s meant for you,” Jimin tells him. His voice isn’t condescending or sarcastic; he speaks like he’s had all the experience in the world. “This will be the first school year I’m teaching on my own, so it took me a while to find something, too. Great things take time.”

“How old are you?” Jeongguk blurts out, shocking even himself. Jimin, however, doesn’t blink. 

“Twenty-five. What about you?”

“Twenty-three.”

“It’s Jimin hyung to you, then,” Jimin says with a wink, making Jeongguk laugh. “You’re still  young, Jeongguk-ah. You have all the time in the world.” 

Somehow, it makes Jeongguk feel a bit better. “Are you here by yourself or with friends?”

“Yoongi hyung and Seokjin hyung are my only close friends,” Jimin laughs. “That should answer that question. What about you?”

“My friends. They’re all in there somewhere.”

“Oh,” Jimin says, standing up straight instead of leaning against the railing. “I didn’t mean to keep you, I’m sorry about that.”

“No! No, you’re fine,” Jeongguk insists, not wanting to leave Jimin’s company. “I don’t mind.”

Jimin raises an unconvinced eyebrow at him. “Are you sure? We can always go back inside.”

“I’m sure, hyung.”

Jimin’s lips bleed into a smile that makes his eyes curve. “In that case, tell me about yourself, Jeonggukie.”

It’s a question that Jeongguk has never been asked, let alone was expecting to be asked by Jimin. He’s not really sure what to say at first, voicing this to Jimin who tells him to just start where he feels comfortable. Jeongguk starts speaking without thinking, letting small, trivial stories tumble out of his mouth without a filter. He tells Jimin about his first day of school, recalling the cries he let out when his mother had left him to fend for himself amongst other children his age. And about the time he broke his arm learning how to skateboard, and the time he broke his finger after smashing it in his refrigerator trying to sneak a bite of his birthday cake the night before his actual birthday.

When he can’t think of anything else to say, he asks Jimin the same question and is more than happy to listen to what makes Jimin Jimin. Jeongguk finds out that Jimin has been dancing since he was five, and that his favorite style is hip-hop but he’s always been naturally gifted when it comes to contemporary. His favorite subject in school was math and he was the class president for six years in a row. When he was twelve, he stole his neighbour’s guinea pig and raised him until his last days on this earth. His name was Dumpling.

He hates mangos and loves cherries, hence the flavor of his chapstick. He lives by himself only fifteen minutes from Yoongi and Seokjin’s apartment and often comes over to bother Seokjin, who happens to be the vice principal at the school Jimin is working at, and helped him get the job. 

The hours meld together so seamlessly it takes them both by surprise when someone opens the balcony door and calls out “Five minutes until midnight!”

They both look away and at each other at the same time. A gentle breeze sways Jimin’s pink hair that matches the tip of his nose and cheeks. “Already?” He asks, reading Jeongguk’s mind. They’ve somehow managed to gravitate towards one another, both of them facing each other and leaning against the railing with only a few centimeters between their feet. It hadn’t taken Jeongguk long to notice that he’s taller than Jimin, having at least three centimeters on him. “I didn’t know we were out here for so long,” Jeongguk says after a moment.

“That’s what happens when you have good company,” Jimin hums with a smile. 

“That makes sense,” Jeongguk answers quietly, afraid that raising his voice might disrupt the calm environment. Surprisingly, he doesn’t feel intimidated under Jimin’s gaze. Instead, warmness floods every part of him when Jimin looks him up and down. 

“Do you wanna stay out here or go back inside?”

It shouldn’t even be a question, Jeongguk thinks. He’s had a better time outside than he was having inside. Whether that be because of Jimin or because of the fact that there aren't so many people around, Jeongguk isn’t sure. Either way, though, this is a million times better. “Are you okay with staying out here?” Jeongguk asks, just in case Jimin was leaning more toward going back inside. 

“I’m fine with whatever you’re fine with,” Jimin says. “Unless you’re tired of me, then you can do whatever you want and I’ll do the opposite. Just let me know.”

“I’m not tired of you,” Jeongguk laughs quietly. “I was hoping we could stay out here.”

“What a coincidence, I was too.”

Fireworks interrupt their conversation, signalling the beginning of the new year greeting them in the only way it knows how. Butterflies fill Jeongguk’s stomach to the brim as he looks at Jimin who is already looking at him, lips seeming more pink than usual. As if noticing where Jeongguk’s gaze has landed, Jimin licks his lips. Jeongguk swallows as Jimin leans forward, hand coming up to tilt up Jeongguk’s chin with his pointer and middle finger.

“As much as I would love to go along with the whole New Year's Kiss concept,” Jimin whispers, noses only a centimeter apart. “I’d rather do this the right way, if you’d let me.”

“T-the right way?” Jeongguk stutters, heart racing in his chest. 

“The right way,” Jimin says again. “Ask you for your number, and then on a date, and from there, maybe we can finish what we started. If that’s something you’re interested in, of course.”

Dating has never been an option for Jeongguk ever since he ended things with Dokyung. He was almost certain that he would grow old alone, unsure as to how anyone else could compare, or if he would even have the confidence to put himself out there. Right now, though, Jimin has him in the palm of his hand, and Jeongguk can’t help but say: “I’m interested in you—in that. In that.”

Jimin laughs, bright and loud, head tilting back, facing the sky. Jeongguk finds himself laughing,  “Ah, Jeonggukie. Me too.”

The next day Jeongguk wakes up to Taehyung looming over him, freshly washed hair dripping onto Jeongguk’s face and causing him to startle, jolting up only for him to collide heads with Taehyung.

“Aish! What the fuck, hyung?!”

“Good morning to you too, brat,” Taehyung hisses through his teeth, lying beside Jeongguk and holding a hand to the sore spot on his forehead. 

“What were you even doing?”

“Nothing,” Taehyung says simply. “I was just gonna ask you who Jimin is and why he’s texting you at seven in the morning,”

Jeongguk sits back up, scrambling to grab his phone from Taehyung’s hand. “Give that to me, hyung.”
“Ah, ah,” Taehyung tsks, standing up and holding the phone away from Jeongguk. “Explanation first, phone later.”

“Hyung,” Jeongguk begs. “I don’t wanna jinx anything.”

“So you like him?”

“I don’t know!”

Taehyung crosses his arms, unimpressed. “Jeongguk-ah.”

“Taehyung-ah.” Taehyung scowls. “I met him last night and he was really cool. We got along really well, and, I don’t know, okay? After Dokyung I didn’t really consider dating again. And I still don’t know if I want to, but Jimin hyung… Jimin hyung is…”

Taehyung’s gaze softens. “Different?”

“It sounds so stupid,” Jeongguk says quickly, defensively. “I don’t even know if this is gonna go anywhere. It probably won’t go anywhere, I mean he’s really fucking cool and I—”

“Do not finish that sentence,” Taehyung warns. “You’re amazing, Jeongguk. Anyone would be lucky to be with you. Dokyung was a boring asshole who didn’t deserve you, so don’t even try bringing up his opinions.”

“I know,” Jeongguk says quietly, shoulders slumping. “I’m just… I’m scared.”

Taehyung sighs, handing Jeongguk his phone. “I know it can be scary, but you’ll never know if you don’t at least give it a shot.”

Jeongguk hesitates before taking his phone. “I know.”

Taehyung gives him a small smile before leaving the room. Jeongguk sighs, falling back onto his mattress and staring up at the ceiling. The last way he wanted to start his new year was by having a mini-crisis. Then again, he’s been overdue for one. 

After a few minutes, he finally unlocks his phone, finding a few notifications waiting for him

JIMIN

good morning jeonggukie :)

i’m not sure what time you wake up, so sorry if it’s too early. anyway, if you’re free any time this week after 4, let me know! it’d be nice to hang out if you’re still interested :)

Jeongguk can’t help but smile, nerves suddenly vanishing. 

You’ll never know if you don’t at least give it a shot.

JEONGGUK

i don’t work on friday, so that works for me if it works for you.

JIMIN
perfect. how does ice skating sound?

Friday evening comes faster than Jeongguk had expected it to. He’s changed his outfit three times, and still isn’t even sure if he likes the fourth option enough to wear. Being the supportive friends that they are, Namjoon, Hoseok, and Taehyung all pack themselves on Jeongguk’s bed, giving their feedback.

“That one’s nice!” Hoseok says with a clap. “I like the sweater!”

“Looks warm enough to skate in,” Namjoon agrees with a nod.

Taehyung on the other hand, squints his eyes and purses his lips. “I don’t know… I feel like that’ll look clunky with your black coat.”

“Jesus, Tae,” Namjoon groans. “He’s changed his outfit enough—”

“No, he’s right,” Jeongguk says over him, already rummaging through his closet once again. He can hear another noise of annoyance from Hoseok, but he ignores it in favor of grasping one of his shirts, already stripping out of the sweater and ignoring the hollers of approval at his bare body that his friends let out.

Jeongguk pulls on the long-sleeved, black turtleneck, tucking it into his pants and turning back around with his arms out. “How’s this?”

“Oh,” they all say at the same time, perking up in interest. 

“That looks good,” Namjoon says first. “You look… mature.”

“In a good way,” Hoseok chimes in.

“How are you doing your hair?” Taehyung asks, already one step ahead of everyone. “I’m thinking a bun would look good. Thoughts?”

Jeongguk nods. “I think so, too.”

Eventually, Jimin texts Jeongguk that he’s on the way and Jeongguk finishes up adding the last of his accessories (a simple belt and some earrings) and giving himself a once over in the mirror, feeling good. 

“Remember to just have a good time,” Namjoon lectures him. “You’re doing this for you and no one else. If you decide that he isn’t worth your time or that you’re just not that interested, that’s okay. Just text us if you need anything, we’ll all be here and we have Hobi’s car if you need us to go get you for whatever reason.”

Jeongguk nods, feeling comforted by their support. Just as he finishes lacing up his boots, the intercom chimes, alerting him that someone is waiting. Jimin’s voice rings out staticy: Hello, it’s Jimin!

Jeongguk buzzes him up quickly, getting himself together as quickly as he can. He’s not sure if this is a date or not, but he’d rather not take any chances just in case. Two knocks sound from the door and Jeongguk stands up straight, hesitating before answering the door.

Although it’s only been a few days since he last saw Jimin, it’s still pretty surreal how pretty Jimin is. It’s the only way Jeongguk can think of to describe him.
He stands on the other side of the threshold, pink hair styled neatly, parted to the side as a small strand hangs over his forehead. His ears are decorated with hoop earrings and diamond studs in the rest of the holes. A leather jacket hugs his shoulders, and beneath it the same necklaces he was wearing last time rest over the black t-shirt beneath. The light blue jeans add some color to the outfit. 

Jimin’s lips part to speak, but his words are cut off quickly. “Whoa, he’s hot!”

“Aish, Taehyung!”

“What? We were all thinking it—”

Jeongguk rushes out of the apartment, slamming the door behind him in hopes that Jimin can’t hear through the door. “I’m sorry,” he apologizes, breathless.

Jimin’s lips press together, amused. “Were those the friends that you were with the other night?” Jeongguk nods. “They seem nice.”

“They are, I promise,” Jeongguk explains. “They’re just really nosey.”

“I don’t mind. He called me hot, how could I get upset at that?”

It’s enough to make Jeongguk laugh, calming him down instantly. With his head dropping down, he finally sees the single flower in his hand. An orange rose. “Is that for me?”

“Ah, yes!” Jimin says excitedly. He holds it up, offering it to Jeongguk who happily takes it. “Cliche, I know, but it’s not a proper date without at least one cliche, right?”

And just like that, Jeongguk’s main question is answered right away. With Dokyung, he hadn’t known if they were going on dates until after they made their relationship official. Even then, he hadn’t even known their relationship was official until Dokyung had called Jeongguk his boyfriend when introducing him to friends. 

“Thank you,” Jeongguk says, twirling the rose between his thumb and pointer-finger. “Why orange?”

“It’s not quite red,”Jimin says and before Jeongguk can even wonder what that means, he’s gesturing for Jeongguk to follow him. “Are you ready for our night?”

Jeongguk nods, hoping for the best and trying to keep his pessimistic thoughts pushed to the back of his head. He walks beside Jimin until they make it outside and to where Jimin’s car is parked—a simple, white Elantra that looks like a newer model. He opens the door for Jeongguk seemingly without a second thought, catching Jeongguk off guard.

“So,” Jimin starts once he’s gotten in the driver’s seat and starts the car. “There’s this outdoor ice skating rink that I’ve been to once a few years ago, but it’s really nice. There’s not too many people and their hot chocolate is really good, but if you don’t feel like ice skating or being out in the cold, we can always do something else. I’m open to ideas, as long as you’re comfortable.”

“Ice skating sounds fun,” Jeongguk says because, well, it does. The only issue is that he’s never ice skated before. Then again, Jimin doesn’t have to know that.

“You’ve never ice skated, have you?”

Jeongguk’s knees wobble beneath him and his hands come out to hold onto Jimin who’s skating in front of Jeongguk, backwards. 

Show-off.

“I-It’s been a while?”

“Jeongguk-ah,” Jimin giggles, rosy cheeks pushing up, turning his eyes into subtle crescents. “Jeonggukie, you don’t have to lie to me. I won’t make fun of you.”

“Okay,” Jeongguk says, giving up and slumping against Jimin’s body. He tries not to react when Jimin’s palms rub against his back, most likely to comfort him. “I’ve never ice skated.”

“That’s all you needed to say,” Jimin says softly, putting some distance between them. Before Jeongguk can second guess himself, Jimin holds out both hands for Jeongguk to hold. “I’ll teach you, yeah? It’s easy, I promise. It stops being scary once you’ve done a few laps.” Jeongguk takes Jimin’s hands, letting him intertwine their fingers as he pulls Jeongguk along slowly. “Bend your knees a little, don’t be so stiff. There you go! Push forward, don’t worry, I’ve got you.”

As Jimin predicted, it only takes a few laps around the rink for Jeongguk to begin feeling somewhat comfortable. Jimin lets go of one of his hands to skate alongside Jeongguk, keeping their other hands intertwined still. At this point, Jeongguk’s fingertips have gone numb, but he can’t imagine letting go any time soon. 

Once a few hours have passed, Jimin suggests taking a break to get some hot chocolate. Jeongguk happily agrees, more than willing to give his poor legs a break. Jeongguk picks a small table to sit at whilst Jimin goes up to the mobile hot chocolate stand and orders their drinks. 

Jeongguk’s teeth chatter against the coldness, making him pull his coat around himself tighter in hopes to trap as much body heat as he can. It doesn’t take long for Jimin to come back with a drink in each hand. 

“Careful,” he warns softly, placing Jeongguk’s drink in front of him. “It’s really hot.”

“Thank you, hyung,” Jeongguk says, holding the drink between his hands to steal some warmth. Jimin does the same a few seconds later and his teeth chatter suddenly.

“I didn’t think it would be this cold,” Jimin says, shaking his head. 

“It’s not too bad,” Jeongguk assures. “I’ve been having fun.”

“Me too,” Jimin smiles. “Am I doing a good job?”

“Yeah, you’re a good skater, hyung.”

“No,” Jimin laughs. “Am I doing a good job impressing you?”

Jeongguk blinks. “Impressing me?”

“Mhm,” Jimin nods, taking a small sip from his cup.

“Why—why would you need to impress me?”

This time, it’s Jimin blinking, confused. “Did… Did I mention this was a date or did I completely read this wrong?”

“No! Oh my God, no, you definitely mentioned that,” Jeongguk says quickly, trying to figure out why Jimin feels the need to impress him. “I just don’t see why you’d have to try impressing me, hyung.”

“Because you’re you, Jeongguk,” Jimin says, seeming even more shocked than Jeongguk. “Why wouldn’t I want to impress you? I’m honestly surprised that you wanted to see me again.”

“Hyung, I’m surprised that you wanted to see me again.”

“How could I not?” Jimin asks, so genuine that Jeongguk can’t help but believe him. “You’re honestly one of the most interesting and genuine people I have ever met. I honestly don’t know how I approached you at the New Year’s party without, like, shitting myself.” Jeongguk laughs loudly and Jimin follows. “I’m serious! I wasn’t gonna do it but I got some alcohol courage. And I’m glad I did.”

“I’m glad you did, too,” Jeongguk says. “I thought I had taken your seat and that’s why you came up to me.”

Jimin shakes his head, “Absolutely not. I was just trying to talk to a pretty boy, that’s all.”

Jeongguk can feel his cheeks heat up, but he finds himself not minding it. 

Jeongguk gets home just after nine. Jimin walks him to his door, leaving him with one last hand squeeze before untangling their hands and waiting for Jeongguk to go inside before leaving.

Jeongguk’s eyes flutter shut once he’s alone, and he lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t expecting a kiss, but somehow isn’t disappointed. 

“Did he kiss you?”

“Jesus Christ!”

“You scared him,” Hoseok laughs, nudging Taehyung from where they’re sitting.

“Why are you both still here?” Jeongguk asks, clutching his chest to ease his startled heart. 

“Namjoon hyung said we could stay,” Taehyung answers, pointing towards the kitchen where Namjoon emerges from. 

“Oh, hey. How was your date?”

“It was good,” Jeongguk says. “He’s really nice.”

“So,” Taehyung presses, eyes on Jeongguk as he makes himself comfortable on a lonely armchair. “Did he kiss you or not?”

“He didn’t,” Jeongguk admits. “It’s okay, though.”

“Aw,” Hoseok says softly. “You like him.”

Jeongguk’s silence is an answer in itself.

It doesn’t take long for a second date to happen. Within a week, Jeongguk finds himself surrounded by all sorts of butterflies, landing on the sleeves of his shirt and on his shoulders, pulling giggles from his lips before he can stop them. He opens his eyes, finding Jimin just as enthralled, holding his phone up to take photos. A white butterfly flutters above his pink hair before finally landing. Jeongguk can’t help but think that it suits him very well. 

“You look so cute, baby,” Jimin gushes through his laughs, taking photo after photo of Jeongguk. The pet name almost goes over Jeongguk’s head, but he catches it at the last minute, loving the way it makes him feel lighter. 

“Take a picture with me, hyung,” he says instead, wanting to share this moment with Jimin. Jimin happily goes to Jeongguk’s side, flipping to the front camera, pressing their cheeks together and taking more photos. Feeling bold, Jeongguk turns his head to press his lips to Jimin’s cheek, catching him by surprise.

This time, it’s Jimin with a heavy blush that he tries to hide behind his hand. 

Somehow, this specific Thursday afternoon is busier than others. Jeongguk rushes to finish another Americano, snapping the lid on it and sliding it towards Taehyung who calls out the name on the order only for it to be drowned out by the rise in voices. 

Taehyung shoots him an exasperated look as someone across the cafe spills their drink all over the floor. Jeongguk sighs, taking one for the team and going to grab the mop from the back room. His manager thanks him three times and Jeongguk ignores him, making his way back toward the spill. The woman who did it apologizes twice, offering to help only to be dismissed by Jeongguk.

He’s done with today.

When he finishes and goes to make his way back towards the front counter, he freezes when he sees a familiar pink waiting at the register. Judging by the look on Taehyung’s face, it’s definitely Jimin.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk says once he’s close enough. Jimin turns back to look at him and a smile spreads on his face easily; Jeongguk can’t help but smile back. “What are you doing here?”

“I thought I’d stop by after my last class,” Jimin explains with a shrug. He’s wearing glasses today, something Jeongguk has never seen although knowing that Jimin mentioned something about needing them but preferring contacts. “I just wanted to see you.”

“Jeongguk was actually about to take his break,” Taehyung says, ignoring Jeongguk’s panicked expression. 

“No I wasn’t—”

“Yes you were,” Taehyung insists. “And luckily, Seoyun just got here. I’ll let our manager know that you’ll be taking him, Jimin, don’t worry!”

Jeongguk goes to protest but stops himself when he sees how happy Jimin looks. He supposes he can take his break a bit earlier than he wanted to. He undoes his apron, throwing it at Taehyung. “I’ll be back.”

“You have to, you’re here until seven.”

Jeongguk ignores him, letting Jimin hold his hand and pull him out of the noisy atmosphere. “Are you hungry?” Jimin asks, letting Jeongguk swing their hands between them. 

“Yeah, I could eat,” Jeongguk says, letting Jimin guide them down the block, passing all the shops around them. Eventually, they settle on a small restaurant that serves cold noodles.

They sit outside, enjoying the little warmth that the sun has to offer. Jeongguk’s tan sweater is thick enough to keep him warm. With the end of January close to fading into February, he knows that spring is close enough to touch. 

“How was work?” Jeongguk asks once the waitress has brought them their food.

“Uneventful,” Jimin says, pushing his glasses up with the back of his hand. “I assigned a group project due in a couple of weeks, so the students have been focused on that. They manage themselves and I just try to keep myself entertained. What about you? It seemed pretty busy in there.”

“Ugh,” Jeongguk groans, rolling his eyes. “It’s been so busy and I don’t know why. I mean, don’t people have work or school? Why do they feel the need to be at a coffee shop in the middle of the fucking day?”

“I’m sorry,” Jimin says, grabbing Jeongguk’s hand on top of the table, rubbing his thumb over Jeongguk’s heart tattoo. “Hopefully the rest of your day passes by fast enough.”

“Hopefully,” Jeongguk repeats, feeling a little disappointed when Jimin moves his hand to take a bite of his own food. “This has definitely been the highlight of my day.”

Jimin smiles and winks, “Mine too, baby.”

Valentine's Day has never been all too special to Jeongguk. It’s not like he ever did anything special or anything worth remembering; it’s always just been another day.

Well, until Jimin came into his life.

He’s taken by surprise when he wakes up to a text from him, telling Jeongguk to be ready by noon. He doesn’t offer any other information other than that but Jeongguk doesn’t question it, trusting that Jimin won’t murder him at this point. Or, maybe he will. He’s always full of surprises. 

By the time noon rolls around, Jeongguk is ready, dressed in light blue jeans with a white shirt and thick cardigan. Jimin is waiting at his door at the promised time, orange sweater making the fading pink in his hair stand out. “Ready?” He asks, earning a nod from Jeongguk who’s more than ready to find out what the plans for today entail.

On the way there, Jimin lets Jeongguk connect his phone to the bluetooth, blaring his music. They both obnoxiously sing along, trying their hardest to see who can make who laugh harder. Jeongguk wins when Jimin snorts on accident, sending them both into another hysteric fit of laughter so powerful that Jimin accidentally swerves. 

Somehow, they make it to their destination in one piece, the destination being a large park with many trees and vast amounts of foliage. It’s probably the nicest park Jeongguk has ever been to, piquing his interest. 

He gets out of the car once Jimin parks, stretching his arms above his head as a breeze passes and makes his skin break out in goosebumps while Jimin goes to open the trunk. He comes back holding a small cooler and a backpack. 

“Where do you wanna sit?”

Jeongguk looks out at the endless grass and trees ahead of them and then back at Jimin. “Sit?” Jimin nods. “Somewhere in the sun.”

Jimin obliges, treading towards a particular spot near a tree with enough sunlight to offer some warmness. Jeongguk follows closely behind him, humming a song under his breath that Jimin joins a few seconds later. Once they reach their spot, Jimin places the cooler and backpack down, bending over to unzip the backpack and carefully pulls out two glasses wrapped in a blanket. He then unfolds the light green blanket, spreading it out with the help of Jeongguk.

“A picnic?” Jeongguk finally realizes once Jimin comes back from grabbing pillows from his car and letting Jeongguk pick where they go.

“Correct,” Jimin says proudly, picking up the cooler and placing it in one of the corners of the blanket. He opens it to reveal an assortment of Jeongguk’s favorite sushi, drinks, and snacks.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk says softly, trying to hide the way his voice cracks. 

“Aw, Jeonggukie,” Jimin says, stepping towards him to gather him in his arms. “What’s wrong?”

“You didn’t have to do all this,” Jeongguk insists despite Jimin immediately shaking his head in disagreement. “I would’ve been okay with doing something simple or—or even nothing.” At the end of the day, it’s not like they’re actually together. To think that Jimin would go through all this effort just for Jeongguk is overwhelming.
“Aish, Jeongguk,” Jimin scolds gently. “I wanted to, okay? I wanted to do something with you today and I didn’t mind planning this or getting all this stuff because it’s for you.”

“Hyung—”

“No arguing with me,” Jimin says over him, tapping his finger on Jeongguk’s lips. “Let’s enjoy our day with each other, yeah? Happy thoughts only.” Jeongguk nods and Jimin scrunches his nose, pressing their foreheads together for a second before pulling away. “Now, sit down. Would you like some banana milk?”

It’s easy for Jeongguk  to calm down after that, taking Jimin’s words to heart and just enjoying the day with him. When their stomachs are filled with food and tongues are sweet with milk, they lay down side by side, admiring the scattered clouds in the blue sky.

“No, it’s definitely a cat,” Jimin argues, turning to look at Jeongguk. “A dog would have longer ears.”
“It depends on what kind of dog it—” Jeongguk starts only to be cut off when his head lolls to the side, only to be faced with Jimin staring back at him with a softness in his eyes that Jeongguk has never seen before. He doesn’t realize how close they are, shoulders pressed together, noses only a centimeter apart. He can feel the way Jimin’s breath hitches too, letting Jeongguk know that he’s feeling the exact same way.

It isn’t evident who leans in first, but Jeongguk’s eyes flutter shut anyway as their lips press together. For the longest time, he thought sparks were some sort of metaphor only used by writers to best describe the excitement felt behind a kiss. 

Now, he understands what they mean.

His lips move in time with Jimin’s, hands at his waist pulling him closer until he’s nearly on top of him. It doesn’t take long for Jimin to lick at his lips, making Jeongguk go pliant in his touch, lips parting without question and letting Jimin in so easily. 

When they part with cherry colored lips and shy smiles, Jimin reaches up to softly trace his knuckles over Jeongguk’s cheek. “I was supposed to ask you this before that happened,” he says, voice just above a whisper. “But, would you wanna be my boyfriend, by chance?”

Jeongguk dives back in to kiss him, hoping that it’s a good enough answer. 

Having a defined relationship with Jimin doesn’t change things as drastically as Jeongguk thought it would. As spring comes around and they spend more and more time together, Jeongguk realizes that their relationship has evolved so naturally that he doesn’t have to worry about introducing Jimin to his friends considering he somehow managed to win them over by bringing dinner to one of their movie nights. 

Even with his parents, all it had taken was Jimin accidentally walking behind Jeongguk while he was Facetiming them for him to be introduced. Of course, his charm was enough to have his mother asking when they would take a weekend to go and visit. 

It’s almost alarming how easy things are. Jeongguk can’t help but wonder if he’s gonna fuck it all up somehow. 

Jeongguk didn’t have any plans to get a new tattoo, but Yoongi had texted him letting him know that he had an opening that he was more than willing to squeeze Jeongguk into, and, well, it has been a while since he got anything. With spring passing and summer coming in in full force, it definitely has been a while.

Yoongi shows him the design he had been working on when Jeongguk arrived at the tattoo shop, a simple skull with a rose in its mouth. Jeongguk falls in love with it right away, choosing his empty arm to place the design on. 

It’s done within two hours, skin throbbing as Yoongi wraps it and half-heartedly mumbles out care instructions that he knows Jeongguk has memorized at this point. 

On his way home, he gets a text from Jimin.

JIMIN

hi baby!

just wanted to know if you were gonna wanna come over or not, let me know please~ <3

Jeongguk agrees, taking the subway to Jimin’s apartment instead of his own, more than happy to see his boyfriend standing on the other side of the door when he arrives. Jimin pulls him in for a chaste kiss, waiting for Jeongguk to take his shoes off before wrapping him in a hug. 

“Can I say I missed you or is that too much?”

Jeongguk laughs, resting his cheek on Jimin’s head. “We saw each other yesterday.”

“I take it back, I didn’t miss you at all.” Jimin leans back, breaking their hold and grabbing Jeongguk’s shoulders, hands trailing down Jeongguk’s arms (most likely to intertwine their hands), but stopping when Jeongguk lets out a hiss when he goes over the sensitive skin. Jimin jumps back in fear. “What?! What happened? Did I hurt you?”

“You’re okay,” Jeongguk says, shaking his head. “It’s just my arm.”

“What happened?”

“I, uh,” Jeongguk starts, words wanting to crawl back into his mouth. “I got a tattoo.”

There’s a short silence that has Jeongguk on the brink of panic. Before he can even start to apologize, Jimin starts talking. “Did you really? Let me see! When did you do this?”

Jeongguk hesitates before bunching up his sleeve, showing Jimin the new art. “I got it today, Yoongi hyung had an opening and asked if I wanted to do something.”

“Aw, why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve gone with you.”

“You—you would’ve?”

“Yeah,” Jimin says, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Only if you wanted me to, of course.”

“I would’ve,” Jeongguk says quietly, unbelieving.

Jimin furrows his eyebrows, noticing the shift in Jeongguk’s mood. “What’s wrong?”

Jeongguk shrugs. “It’s dumb, hyung.”

“It’s not if it’s making you upset,” Jimin says softly, tilting Jeongguk’s chin up with his fingers. “Talk to me, baby.”

“You’re… You’re not upset that I got more?”

“No, why would I be?” Jimin asks, baffled. 

“I don’t know,” Jeongguk says honestly. It feels dumb of him to even assume Jimin would react in any other way considering he was the one to mention Jeongguk’s tattoos first when they met. Part of him, though, still isn’t sure if it’s all too good to be true.

“Jeongguk-ah,” Jimin whispers. “Don’t lie to me, baby.”
“It’s a lot,” Jeongguk warns him. 

“Good thing I like the sound of your voice, right?”

They migrate to the loveseat in Jimin’s living room, softly lit by a warm lamp in the corner. The TV is muted with the pictures still playing, offering some colored light to the rest of the room. Jeongguk begins speaking slowly, then all at once, filling Jimin in on his previous relationship. He tells him about the issues that were brought to light with his tattoos, and the way Jeongguk was scared to disappoint time and time again. He mentions all the things he wanted to do, but never did, and all the things he did do, but found himself feeling guilty. 

When his mouth starts to feel dry and his tongue begins to feel heavy in his mouth, he stops speaking. Jimin sits in silence, eyes focused on his hand that’s resting on Jeongguk’s thigh. Before Jeongguk can think to apologize for oversharing, Jimin pats him twice.

“C’mon.”

What? “What?”

Jimin stands, gesturing for Jeongguk to do the same. “We’re going out on the balcony. C’mon.”

He starts walking, forcing Jeongguk to follow him out into the warm air. “Are you gonna push me off?”

Jimin rolls his eyes. “No, Jeongguk. I have an idea.”

“What’s your idea—”

“Repeat after me,” Jimin says, before yelling: “He was an asshole!” Loud enough for Jeongguk to startle.

“Hyung, what are you doing?”

“It’s a good way to get things off your chest, Gguk,” Jimin says, like it explains everything. “Trust me. Try it. He was an asshole!”

Jeongguk pauses, not sure if this is really the best idea, but trusting Jimin anyway. He sighs, raising his voice, “He was an—”

“Scream it!” Jimin encourages.

He was an asshole!” Jeongguk yells, feeling giddy once he does so.

“I’m allowed to do whatever makes me happy!”

“I’m allowed to do whatever makes me happy!”

“And I have a boyfriend who loves me unconditionally no matter what!”

“And I have a boyfriend who loves—” Jeongguk pauses, whipping around to look at JImin. “You what?”

Jimin’s eyes are curved up as he smiles, dimple denting in on his cheek as he looks at Jeongguk fondly. The air around them is hot and slightly humid but the warmth that sparks in Jeongguk is more than welcomed. “Who loves you unconditionally and no matter what,” Jimin repeats, quieter this time. “Because I do, you know? I love you.”

Jeongguk’s lips part in shock, chest feeling heavy with too many emotions to name as a beautiful boy stands in front of him with his heart on his sleeve. “You love me?”

“I do,” Jimin says with a laugh, holding his hand out for Jeongguk to take, pulling him in closer. “I’m in love with everything about you, Jeonggukie. And it’s okay if you’re not there yet or if you never get there, really. Loving you has been a reward in itself, and that’s enough for me. But you deserve that, to be loved no matter what, and I’m gonna make sure you get that.”

Jeongguk falls into Jimin’s arms, holding him so tight that he can hear Jimin wheeze out a breath. “Thank you,” he says, so quietly he isn’t sure if Jimin catches it.

He can feel Jimin’s lips press against his forehead. “It’s what you deserve.”

For once, Jeongguk thinks he might believe it.

Summer break comes around quickly, and Jeongguk can’t help but be excited at the fact that he gets Jimin to himself on weekdays for the first time since they started dating. Now, he spends most of his days and nights at Jimin’s apartment between his shifts and job hunting. 

(Namjoon tells him that he doesn’t mind, but Jeongguk knows that Namjoon secretly prefers it when he has the apartment to himself without anyone around to interrupt his singing sessions that have moved out of the shower and into the living room and kitchen.)

(When Jeongguk had come home without any warning to find Namjoon belting to a ballad in a key too high for him, Namjoon had been humiliated. They don’t talk about that too much.)

Jeongguk heads straight to Jimin’s after his shift at the cafe, watching YouTube on the subway to pass time. Eventually, he’s heading up to Jimin’s place, punching in the code to Jimin’s door and making his way inside like it’s his place too. 

“Hyung, I’m back!” Jeongguk calls, toeing off his shoes and replacing them with the house-slippers Jimin had gotten him. 

Jimin comes out from the hallway leading to his bedroom, dressed in sweats and a t-shirt, hair hidden inside a beanie. His glasses slip down his nose when Jeongguk dips him dramatically to kiss him, but it makes him laugh, so it’s okay.

“Why didn’t you call me? I could’ve picked you up,” Jimin asks, lips pouted, slapping Jeongguk’s chest playfully. 

“The subway isn’t that bad,” Jeongguk insists. He’s used to public transportation at this point.

“Yeah, but you should use your resources,” Jimin scolds. “As much as I wanna get on your ass about that, I have a surprise for you.”

Jeongguk’s eyebrows shoot up in interest. “A surprise?”

“Follow me,” Jimin sings, taking Jeongguk by the hand and leading him into the bathroom. Just as Jeongguk starts to question him, Jimin pulls out a bag from the bottom cabinet, placing it on the bathroom counter with a smile. “Surprise!”

Jeongguk opens the bag. “Is this—?”

“You said you’ve always wanted to dye your hair,” Jimin explains. “And I’ve always dyed my own, so I sort of know what I’m doing, so… I thought we’d start by bleaching it and maybe after blond we can try different colors. How does that sound?”

Jeongguk grabs Jimin’s face in his hands, pulling him in for a deep kiss that even makes him a bit light headed. “Thank you.” Kiss. “Thank you.” Kiss. “Thank you.”

Jimin laughs, returning the kisses back happily. “No need, my love. Just trying to help you live out all your wildest dreams. Shall we get started?”

Jeongguk changes into one of his own faded t-shirts, sitting in the kitchen chair Jimin had dragged into the bathroom. He almost falls asleep beneath Jimin’s gentle hands, as he sections Jeongguk’s hair and carefully applies the dye and foil to every strand. 

When his head is covered in foil, he sets a timer, letting Jeongguk grab a snack before it goes off and they continue. 

Finally, Jimin washes his hair in the sink with a toner, doing his best to not make a mess of water but failing anyway. He stands behind Jeongguk, brushing his hair and laughing when Jeongguk begins to fall asleep.
“Wake up,” Jimin demands, holding Jeongguk’s neck, pulling his head back so Jeongguk is looking upside down at Jimin. “Are you awake?”

“Mhm,” Jeongguk hums even as his eyes flutter shut and Jimin laughs again, leaning down to kiss him the best he can with the angle.

Once his hair dries, Jeongguk wills himself to look at his reflection properly. The blond is such a difference from his dark, natural color that it takes him nearly five minutes to process this is him. He runs his hand through his hair, surprised to find that it actually feels pretty normal instead of damaged.

“You look hot,” Jimin says from behind him, wrapping his arms around Jeongguk’s waist and placing his chin on Jeongguk’s shoulder. “Blond looks good on you.”

“I love you,” Jeongguk blurts out, just as surprised at his own confession as Jimin is. He hadn’t expected it to come out like that, but there’s nothing he can do about it now.

As scared as he had been when it came to letting down his walls for Jimin, it was hard to not let himself become so enamored with everything about him. 

Everything about Jimin is so real and genuine. He looks at Jeongguk with such fondness and love that Jeongguk can’t believe he went his whole life accepting anything less than that, anything less than Jimin. 

Not only that, but the endless support he receives from Jimin on a daily basis is something he thought he would never find in a relationship, especially after Dokyung. Something as simple as complimenting his tattoos, or taking the time to make Valentine’s Day special, or even just helping Jeongguk dye his hair makes Jeongguk realize that this is what love is. 

This is the unspeakable feeling that emanates from Jeongguk’s heart whenever he’s around Jimin. 

“I love you,” he says again, this time, turning to face Jimin. “I’m in love with you.”

Jimin runs his hand through Jeongguk’s hair fondly. “I love you too, baby. Does this mean you like your hair?”

“Yes,” Jeongguk laughs, dropping his head down to rest on Jimin’s shoulder despite the slight height difference. “It looks great, thank you.”

Jimin kisses him once, then twice. “No, thank you.”

Jeongguk stares up at the priced items on the menu, trying to remember if Jimin said he wanted a pretzel or not. He decides to ask for one, just in case. Worse case scenario, Jimin doesn’t want the pretzel and Jeongguk gets to eat it. It’s a win for one of them, either way. 

Once Jeongguk secures the pretzel and the popcorn, he walks away from the concessions, looking for his boyfriend’s pink hair amongst the many heads filling the lobby of the movie theatre. 

As he’s looking, he hears a voice behind him call: “Jeongguk?”

He turns around, recognizing the voice almost instantly. “Dokyung?”

“Hi,” Dokyung says, taking a step toward Jeongguk. The guy next to him looks just as confused as Jeongguk feels. “What are you doing here?”

“Watching a movie,” Jeongguk says. What else would he be doing?

“Right,” Dokyung says dumbly. He looks at Jeongguk up and down, eyes lingering on his hair and on his arms, exposed in a t-shirt, tattoos on display for everyone to see. “You look so different.”

“Thank you,” Jeongguk says, not caring about what Dokyung has to say about his appearance. “You look the same.”

“Thanks.” Jeongguk glances over his shoulder, finally spotting Jimin making his way over with their drinks. Before he can walk away, Dokyung is speaking again. “How have you been, Gguk?”

“Good,” Jeongguk says quickly. “As much as I’d love to talk, I have to go catch up with my boyfriend before I lose him again. It was nice seeing you.”

Jeongguk ignores the “boyfriend?” he hears from Dokyung, resisting the urge to point out that it seems like Dokyung is with someone too. 

It’s odd to think how broken up Jeongguk was after Dokyung, how easy it was for him to question himself to the point of growing insecure about things he should have never felt insecure about. With Jimin, everything is better. There’s no judgement, just love upon love upon love. How it should have always been.

Jimin visibly brightens up when he sees Jeongguk, quickening his pace to meet Jeongguk halfway. “Sorry, the line for drinks was really long.”

“You’re okay,” Jeongguk says with a shrug, holding up the pretzel. “I got your pretzel.”

“I didn’t want a pretzel.”

“Okay, I got my pretzel.”

Jimin snorts, shaking his head before tilting his head towards where Jeongguk has just been a few minutes ago. “Who were you talking to?”

“Ah, just some asshole,” Jeongguk says simply. “No one important.”

“Aish, people,” Jimin says, shaking his head with a tsk.

“ I know, right?”