Jimin reached into the large cardboard box of mixed chips and continued to load the shelves. He pulled out a bag of Cheetos and a smile crept onto his face before he could realize what he was doing. He thought back to a few days ago when he had formally met Taehyung.
He felt like when he spent the little time with Taehyung that he had made a connection that started to fill a dark hole that had formed in his chest over the years of isolation from the time spent tending to his father. He hadn’t felt like he could relate to anyone with his intensity of emotion that filled him at the mere thought of The Swan.
He had mentioned only a small amount of The Swan’s deeds and Taehyung had gotten so emotional. Jimin had never met another person with so much heart and empathy. He felt like he could talk to Taehyung about anything and he would understand. Jimin’s stomach dropped when he realized he may never see Taehyung again.
The moment was quick but powerful. He couldn’t imagine the embarrassment Taehyung probably felt breaking down into his arms like he had. He secretly hoped everyday that he would see Taehyung’s messy long black locks come wandering in. Would he come back?
He finished emptying the box’s contents onto the shelves and walked to the back to drop the box until he would bring it to the recycling bin outside after his shift. As he bent to drop the box he felt a cool shiver go up his spine. The cardboard fell from his fingertips and he turned around to go back into the store. Why was he on edge?
He walked back to the counter and took a sip from his drink. He peered up at the monitor from the security camera and spotted someone in the snack aisle where he had been. All he could see was a messy hear of black hair. “Taehyung?” he called out. He watched the monitor and saw the man turn around came towards the front counter. A wave of relief washed over Jimin when he recognized him.
“It is you! How are you doing?” Jimin asked with a smile.
Taehyung walked over shyly and shrugged. “It’s been a rough couple days to be honest,” he admitted.
Jimin frowned at the thought of Taehyung unhappy. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Taehyung shook his head and placed a bag of Cheetos on the counter. “I’m just gonna let it go and let the Cheetos fix it,” he joked.
Jimin laughed and scanned the bag. “Killing Cheetos is how you cope with problems?” Jimin teased handing the bag back and taking Taehyung’s money. Taehyung let out a small nervous laugh.
“I guess we all cope in different ways.” Taehyung replied.
“It’s okay, they’re just Cheetos, it's not like you’re murdering people,” Jimin chuckled handing back Taehyung’s change. He watched the color drain from Taehyung’s face. A surge of concern possessed Jimin. “Taehyung, are you okay?”
Taehyung’s eyes rolled to the back of his head and he began to slouch onto the counter for support. “Taehyung!?” Jimin cried rushing around the counter to catch him. Taehyung stayed slumped for a few seconds before coming back to his senses. He blinked his eyes and looked up at Jimin.
“What happened?” Taehyung asked in a state of confusion. Jimin let out a breath he didn;t even realize he was holding.
“I think you fainted…” Jimin whispered. Taehyung quickly stood up and got out of Jimin’s arms.
“I’m sorry, I haven’t really eaten today, my sugar’s probably low…” he explained, holding the back of his neck. Jimin was worried.
“Are you okay? I can call a paramedic if you keep feeling faint,” Jimin offered but he was met with Taehyung fiercely shaking his head.
“I’m okay, I’ll just stand here for a minute and eat something,” he assured. Jimin didn’t believe he was fine, and didn’t want him to leave the store in this state.
He went back around the counter and got out his phone and dialed his coworker that traded shifts with him.
“Hey, Yeonjun, I really need to end my shift early, I have a friend who’s taken ill and I want to look after him,” Jimin said into the phone. Taehyung waved to get his attention but he was ignored.
“I’m okay, you don’t need to end your shift,” Taehyung assured, eating a Cheeto with an exaggerated smile to prove it. Jimin looked at him and rolled his eyes.
“Thank you man, I owe you! See you in a minute,” Jimin smiled into the phone before hanging up.
“My coworker Yeonjun is going to come right over and finish my shift for me. I’m taking care of you whether you like it or not. I’d like to think of you as my friend now and I don’t let my friends be sick alone,” Jimin stated in a tone to not be debated with it. Taehyung pouted like a defeated puppy when a man entered the store.
Jimin saw him and walked over to give a one-armed hug and a pat on the back. “I’m lucky you live a few buildings down,” Jimin said with a sigh of relief. “This is my new friend, Taehyung,” he said gesturing over at Taehyung.
Taehyung gave a small shy wave and headed for the door. “I need some air.”
Jimin went back to the counter to grab his jacket and jogged behind to catch up behind Taehyung. “I’m coming!”
They walked in silence down the street for a few minutes until Taehyung finally spoke. “I’m really fine, you could have stayed at work,” he said with a frown. Jimin was disheartened by Taehyung’s insistence on the fact. Were they not at least friends like he had thought?
“It’s okay, I’d rather spend time with you and make sure you’re okay,” Jimin assured patting Taehyung’s shoulder. “Where do you want to go?”
Taehyung shrugged his shoulders. “I have nowhere in particular to be now.”
“Want to come to my place?” Jimin asked.
“No!” Taehyung said quickly. He coughed and gave a light smile. “I don’t want to be in your house in case I might be sick, I’m sure your father’s immune system isn’t great in his state,” he explained.
Jimin’s face softened into a kind smile. “That’s so kind of you to think about, that’s a good point,” he admitted. They continued to walk until Jimin saw a park a block down.
“Do you want to just go to the park? We can sit and relax or whatever you want to do,” he suggested eagerly.
Taehyung shrugged his shoulders. “Sure.”
Jimin displayed the grin of a child and punched Taehyung’s arm before taking off down the sidewalk towards the park. Taehyung laughed at Jimin’s quickly forgotten fragility towards his state and took off after him.
They sat on the bench and talked for hours when they got there to learn more about each other. They played on the equipment like children until they couldn’t catch their breath from the laughter and exercise. Jimin was sure by then that they had an amazing friendship blooming on the horizon. Happiness filled his half empty self. It had been so long since he’d gotten to spend time with a friend and have this much fun.
It was dark before they could realize and they walked back toward the store. When they got there they stood by the door and looked at each other awkwardly. Jimin was unsure of how to say goodbye.
“So, uh, will you come by soon?” Jimin asked with a shy smile. He got so lost in their day together that he’d almost forgotten that Taehyung had never said anything to say he’d see him again soon.
“I’ll try,” Taehyung promised with a genuine smile that Jimin found contagious. He reached out and took Taehyung in his arms. He felt like he could, after all they had hugged in the past and Taehyung hadn’t said anything about not liking it. Jimin couldn’t help but be affectionate towards his new friend.
“I’ll see you soon then!” Jimin smiled when they released from the hug. Taehyung nodded and waved. Taehyung crossed the street and went into his car. Jimin tilted his head in interest. He hadn’t known that Taehyung had a car, had he really driven over to just come to the store?
Jimin looked down at his watch and gasped at how late it was. “I have to get home!” he scolded himself. He unlocked his car a few steps down and pulled out to get home to tell his father about his day.