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Jeon Jungkook is not in love.

 

That’s what he tells himself when he’s fourteen and sitting against the mirror of a small dance room, watching Park Jimin move his body to the thrum of the bass pounding out of the speakers. It’s winter break but Jimin’s still in the studio, and Jungkook won’t miss an opportunity to spend time with his best friend, tracing the outline of his form in the tight tank top, the rivulettes of sweat that dot his forehead, run down the gentle slope of his nose, and-

 

He tells himself that the wild thud of his heart against his chest is because of the adrenaline, not because of the smirk on Jimin’s lips, it’s the vibrations of the music that he can feel from the floor, not the desperate feelings clawing inside him.

 

“What did you think?” Jimin asks, wiping the sweat from his brow with the towel Jungkook tosses him, eyes wide in anticipation, as though Jungkook’s opinion means everything.

 

Jungkook shrugs. “It was okay,” And it will be just one of the many lies he tells himself over the years.

 

Jeon Jungkook is definitely not in love.

 

There’s no possible way to be in love with your best friend like this, for his skin to feel electric when Jimin’s near, to crave his attention with such a ferocity that he’s glaring daggers when Jimin is talking to someone who isn’t him, when he’s smiling and it isn’t for him.

 

But he takes solace in knowing that Jimin reserves a special smile, just for him. He only uses it when they’re alone, and Jungkook’s mumbles at him to stop staring, hyung, and the look he gives Jungkook just steals his breath.

 

Jimin seems to be happier the days leading up to Christmas when Junkook is seventeen. Exhaustion clings to him from grueling practices, but he’s walking taller now. There’s a constant smile on his face, but it’s not because of Jungkook.

 

“They signed me,” Jimin explains quietly as they sit, shoulder to shoulder under the starless Seoul night, and Jungkook tries to ignore the way his thigh burns where Jimin’s hand rests. The feeling is warm, settles nicely in his belly along with the eggnog they had swiped from their parents’ New Years party. He wonders when it came to this, when even the smallest things make his throat close up, quell his sharp tongue.

 

Jungkook knows exactly who they is. It was Jimin’s dream, after all. All the countless hours spent in practice rooms, the sudden need to start dieting and working out, all the time spent working and not spending time with Jungkook. “I’m leaving for L.A. in two weeks,”

 

And Jungkook closes his eyes, trying to push away the sound of Jimin’s voice wavering, because if he does then it’ll make it more tangible, more real, that he’s going to lose Jimin.

 

“Why would they sign someone as ugly as you?” Is Jungkook’s expert response, and Jimin kicks him in the shin. Jungkook squints his eyes in laughter, and pretends that the tightness in his chest is because he’s breathless from giggling, not because Park Jimin is breaking his heart.

 

It’s painful to be in love with your best friend.

 

Jungkook wonders why he realized in now of all the times, standing at the terminal entrance, Jimin squeezing the life out of him, crying onto his shoulder.

 

“Don’t be such a baby,” Jungkook sneers, but Jimin just sniffles and holds him tight. Jungkook pretends he’s not crying too, and holds Jimin tighter.

 

He’s been pretending a lot these days. Pretending that he’s okay with Jimin flying across the world, pretending that he’s okay with going to school and knowing that Jimin isn’t going to be there.

 

“You’re worried about me, aren’t you?” Jimin asks, voice wobbling hopefully, and Jungkook shoves him away.

 

“Because I’m afraid you’re gonna get picked on, you’re so ugly and short,” And Jimin just brushes it off but it remains a dead weight on Jungkook’s shoulders, because what if Jimin does get picked on? What if he hurt himself? Got into trouble?

 

The older has always been too nice to stand up for himself, too inherently selfless to put himself first, which is why he and Jungkook were drawn together in the first place. Jungkook was unapologetic, and Jimin said I’m sorry too much.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jimin mumbles, teary eyed as he pulls away, clutching his carry on in one hand, the other tangled with Jungkook’s, and for a moment, the younger wonders if he knows.

 

“Don’t be,” Jungkook responds, slipping his fingers out of Jimin’s, and just like that, he’s gone.



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For a while, it’s okay. Jimin always finds time to call, and Jungkook pretends that it’s not three in the morning before his final exams so he can listen to Jimin’s sweet voice, chattering on about things he doesn’t understand, but he listens because it’s Jimin, and he loves Jimin.

 

“I… met someone,” Jimin says once, hesitantly, and for all the air in Jungkook’s lungs, he can’t breathe, because he was afraid this might happen. That Jimin would move on, which is silly because there was never anything to move on from in the first place.

 

“Oh… that’s nice,” Jungkook croaks, and clutches the phone to his ear as Jimin prattles on about a guy named Hoseok, and he decides he hates that name. But Jimin is happy, and even though Jungkook feels like he’s drowning, it’s enough.

 

Eventually, as Jungkook had figured would happen, the calls become less frequent. They don’t talk for hours like they used to. It’s a quick hi and bye and sometimes Jimin will say something about the album he’s recording, about the routines he’s learning, the people he’s meeting, and Jungkook knows they’re probably more interesting than him. But he’s not mad. He clings to every bit of information Jimin gives him like a lifeline, his only connection to the boy he’s in love with.

 

Things change when Jimin releases his first album. He skyrockets to the top of the charts, and suddenly, he’s an icon, a superstar, as all the magazines Jungkook buys tell him.

 

He’s modelling for this, endorsing for that, performing at big awards shows, has thousands and thousands of fangirls, and the calls almost stop entirely. He finds time to call on Jungkook’s birthday, congratulate him on his graduation, on holidays, but that’s it.

 

Jungkook figures it’s for the better. Jimin needs to focus on his career, and Jungkook needs to focus on his. And he reminds himself that if Jimin can follow his dreams, Jungkook can too.

 

So he throws himself into his studies, trying to erase the memories of Park Jimin, but he still visits his mother on the weekends, still remains updated, and he always buys his albums.

 

And sometimes, he pours over the lyrics, wondering if Jimin ever thinks about him in his songs, whether the elder is just as affected by their separation as Jungkook is. Sometimes, he thinks he’s found something. Between the transition from the verse to the chorus, in the guitar melodies, he thinks he can hear how much Jimin misses him, despite everything, and then he reminds himself that he’s just being stupid.

 

But if he tries hard enough, he can almost hear the sadness, the longing for times when they could just sit under their tree together, letting the winter winds rustle their hair, playing in the snow and fighting over hot chocolate, and nothing was complicated.

 

Jimin had always put Jungkook first, and now, it’s his turn. So he backs out quietly, and wishes Jimin the best.



------



Five years pass, and Park Jimin is a household name. Jungkook becomes a local one, getting his business degree and opening up a coffee shop with one of his college friends, Taehyung. It becomes popular very quickly, and during the holidays, there’s never a moment of rest.

 

Jungkook is out on the floor, serving customers because the store is underserved, and the air smells like cinnamon and Christmas. It reminds him of the times when he and Jimin would sneak alcohol from their parents’ holiday parties and get drunk at the park, where they’d laugh and lean their foreheads together and hold hands and it would mean nothing and everything at the same time.

 

Jimin would talk about them staying together forever and Jungkook would just laugh it off and hope that Jimin wouldn’t ever find out how badly he wanted that future, clung to it the way a child clings to a kite string, hoping it won’t just blow away.

 

“Sources have confirmed that Park Jimin will be in Seoul today. There are speculations that the international singer is in talks for a movie deal with-”

 

And the rest of the words fly over Jungkook’s head as he stares blankly at the television screen on the wall. The lady drones on, but all he hears is Jimin will be in Seoul.

 

He jolts back into reality when his phone buzzes in his pocket. He digs it out to see Jimin’s mother’s number.

 

“Eomma, is everything alright?” Jungkook asks, voice coming out winded.

 

“Of course Jungkook-ah! You know Jiminnie’s coming home today, right?”

 

Now I do, Jungkook thinks. “Yes, eomma,” he replies dutifully.

 

“I just realized I have errands to run today, and I can’t pick him up at the airport-” There’s giggling from the other end of the line and it sounds suspiciously like his mother. “Would you mind picking him up for me?”

 

And Jungkook blanches, countless excuses burning at the tip of his tongue. “Doesn’t he have a driver or something?” he asks instead.

 

“Yes of course, but he said he wanted to see you,” He said he wanted to see you.

 

He said he wanted to see you.

 

Jungkook clutches the phone to his ear as the words pound in his mind. Jimin wants to see me. Jimin wants to see me? He had figured Jimin had forgotten about tiny Jeon Jungkook.

 

“A-alright then, eomma,” Jungkook says, and he ignores the way his heart thumps wildly against his rib cage.

 

“Don’t worry, Jungkook-ah,” Jimin’s mother coos, sensing his agitation. “Jimin will find you,”

 

It’s been five years and Jungkook is still pining after Park Jimin.

 

He waits outside the terminal, feeling uncomfortable around the massive crowd of people holding signs and setting up cameras. There are bodyguards set up around the entrance and Jungkook thinks it’s a far cry from the way Jimin had left him years ago- quietly, and with too many tears.

 

But now, this is a very large affair. The minute Park Jimin’s entourage step out- his stylists, managers, choreographer, back up dancers- people are screaming, cameras are flashing wildly, and Jungkook winces, stepping back in a vain attempt to get away from the commotion.

 

Jungkook’s heart leaps into his throat as he scans the group of people clumped together, but there’s no sign of Jimin. Ten minutes pass, then ten more, and Jimin’s people leave. The fans leave, the photographers pack up their equipment, and they’re gone, probably home to their families, loved ones, to spend the rest of the day together.

 

Jungkook wonders if Jimin had just forgotten about him. He must have had better things to do. But Jungkook had been waiting for so long, and the buzz of anticipation that had been thrumming in his veins suddenly turns to lead in his bones.

 

It had been stupid too, thinking that he could pick up Park Jimin, global icon, from the airport unnoticed. It was just too ridiculous to be true.

 

He sighs, turning around, and walks straight into someone’s solid chest. The man- it’s definitely a man- stumbles for a moment, and Jungkook steadies him with his arms.

 

“I’m so sorry,” he says, bowing in apology. The man laughs, startling Jungkook.

 

“I never thought I’d see the day when you’d be apologizing to me,” the man says, and Jungkook’s eyes snap up. The voice is… oddly familiar, and the man is dressed in all black, face covered by a mask. He’s broad, toned, and the hair peeking out of his snapback is a dyed a golden brown, but the eyes are exactly the same. There’s no mistaking it.

 

“Jimin…” Jungkook breathes, the realization knocking the wind out of his lungs, and he just stares at the man- when he had left he had still just been a boy- and he can’t believe it. Jimin holds a finger up to his lips and drags him out into the chilly Seoul air, away from the lingering paparazzi.

 

Once he’s sure they’re not being followed, Jimin’s eyes curve up into black crescents, and Jungkook just gapes at him (rather stupidly). “Yah! I can’t believe this is the way you say hi after five years,” He shoves Jungkook’s arm lightly, but his voice is soft, fingers lingering on his bicep. “You got taller,” he says, smiling fondly.

 

The contact breaks Jungkook out of his initial shock, and he smiles. “You got shorter,”

 

Jimin huffs, rolling his eyes. “I can’t believe you keep disrespecting me like this,”

 

“And I can’t believe you got shorter,” Jungkook retorts snidely.

 

“I will end you, Jeon Jungkook,” Jimin holds up a fist in mock threat, but there’s a humor in his eyes, a fondness, and the air settles comfortably around them.

 

“You’re too short,” Jimin scoffs, dropping the fist, and they stand uselessly for a moment, before Jungkook pulls Jimin against his chest, wrapping his arms around his narrow waist, and tucking his face into the elder’s neck.

 

“I’m glad you’re back… hyung,” Jungkook mumbles against Jimin’s skin, more quietly this time. Jimin had never worn cologne, but now he smells like an expensive designer brand, his dyed hair is coarse, but his skin is warm, soft. It’s still Jimin, despite everything. Jungkook presses his forehead against Jimin’s shoulder, suddenly shy, because despite the years, Jimin’s smile still makes his stomach flop, makes his skin tingle.

 

His heart feels like it’s going to burst out of his chest when Jimin throws his arms around his neck with just as much enthusiasm, fingers curling into Jungkook’s hair and stroking gently. Jungkook shivers, but it’s not because of the cold.

 

“I’m glad to be back, Kookie,” Jimin murmurs, and Jungkook pulls away, looking into the elder’s eyes, and Jimin’s expression mirrors his own- hopeful.

 

In that moment, although everything is different, they are still the same, and Jeon Jungkook realizes that he’s probably still in love with Park Jimin.

 

And as they slip into his car and start on the journey home, Jungkook’s mind swirls with doubt, wondering how they can make up for years of lost time, but just Jimin tangles his fingers with Jungkook’s the way he did when they were younger, squeezing gently, and Jungkook thinks that maybe, Jimin might still love him too.