“No. The blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?”
-- Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The first time Jimin almost says “I love you” to Jungkook is when they meet.
It’s a month into his stint in the Women and Juvenile Affairs Division, a rough and emotionally draining week full of domestic abuse cases and nightmares, so Jimin feels like he’s made of smoky spun glass as he stands in the convenience store, trying to shop for cheap comfort ramyun. He tiredly peers at the containers snuggled into the very back of the highest shelf, just out of reach of his short arms, and thinks to himself that he really doesn’t deserve this at 11PM on a Friday night.
Pressing up to the shelf, Jimin strains onto his tiptoes and reaches again, feels his fingers brushing the plastic, but even painfully knocking his ribs into the metal framing doesn’t get him a ramyun container. Fuck. Frustration boils up in him so intensely that his eyes prickle shamefully. Fuck it all. He bites on a knuckle to quell the tears and takes a step back, ready to scream or kick the shelf or bite himself so hard that he bleeds.
He bumps right into another person. With a violent jerk of surprise, Jimin crashes his elbow against the shelf and watches with wide eyes as the guy fishes down two of the ramyun cups for which Jimin angled.
He offers one to Jimin with a hesitant smile. “Did you want one of these?”
The wave of thankfulness that rushes over Jimin makes him weak in the knees. “God, yes, thank you. Thank you so much! You’re a lifesaver.” He’s this close to tagging on I love you but his brain filter catches up before he can make more of fool of himself.
The guy laughs softly, fidgeting with his ramyun cup. “I don’t know about that.”
“No, no, trust me.” Jimin shakes his head emphatically and, riding on a sudden high of sleep-deprived euphoria, blurts, “Hey, do you want to eat together?” At the wide-eyed look he gets in return, he gestures at the ramyun the other guy is still holding. “I’ll treat you. As a thank you.”
If possible, the guy’s eyes seem to grow even bigger. He’s kind of cute that way. “B-but,” he protests.
“Really,” Jimin insists, even as he feels his ears heat up at his own boldness, “let me buy your ramyun. You don’t have to eat with me, I just want to repay you.”
There is a beat of awkward silence, then the guy lowers his head with a shy smile. “Okay.”
So they make their way over to the register where Jimin pays for their ramyun and two cans of peach juice. With a nod goodbye, he turns his back on the helpful stranger to prepare his noodles. It’s when he flips off the hot water that someone says behind him, “You know, it’s better to only add 400ml,” and Jimin starts, almost upending his container. It’s the helpful stranger again, looking a bit sheepish, clutching his ramyun and juice. “Sorry.”
“You’re here!” Jimin exclaims rather dumbly, then catches himself. “Wait, what? You mean I added too much water?” He peers doubtfully at the ramyun cup.
The guy puts a finger to his own container, drawing a horizontal line around an inch from the lid. “The line is about here, probably 500ml? 400 gives it better taste.”
For a second, Jimin is speechless. Then a peal of laughter rises through his chest like champagne bubbles and escapes him before he can hold it in. He shakes his head, pitching back teasingly, “Okay, clearly you’re the ramyun expert here.” They exchange silly grins.
That night, they sit at the grubby convenience store counter, talking into the small hours of the morning. When they finally drift outside, Jimin laughingly suggests they do it again the next week and gets stunned into silence when the helpful stranger--Jungkook--actually agrees.
It starts from there.
The first time Jimin actually says “I love you” happens much later.
By then, he and Jungkook have been together for half a year, have navigated the first fights and frustrations and figured out a rhythm that works for them. Finished with his rotation period, Jimin has started regular work in a precinct station. Jungkook has transitioned from college into working in a small upstart furniture business with some grumpy Daegu craftsman who has big plans of becoming a hot name in the designer furniture market. They’re in Jungkook’s apartment which, though tiny, has the distinct advantage of not also housing a flatmate. On that particular night, Jimin is cutting up vegetables on the small kitchen counter while Jungkook has been banished to his bed and is fiddling with his phone.
“I can’t believe both you and your brother are so good at drawing,” Jimin tells him, dismantling a bell pepper and scratching out the seeds. “It’s unfair to hoard so much talent in one family.”
“He’s much better than me,” Jungkook deflects. “Even though it’s just a hobby for him.”
“Yeah, that’s even worse.” Thinking on the elder Jeon sibling’s life choices, Jimin shudders dramatically. “Can you imagine choosing the military over a job in something like graphic design?”
“Maybe in the air force if I could fly a plane. But--” his voices takes on a teasing lilt “-- I hate bossing people around.”
Brat. Without even turning around, Jimin threateningly lifts his knife. “Do you want dinner or not, Jungkookie?”
In reply, Jungkook just laughs and they descend into comfortable silence for a while. Then, in a thoughtful tone, Jungkook says, “You did your service so early, hyung. Was it hard?”
“Hm, well.” As he takes the green onions out of the sink, Jimin thinks back on how naively he entered the army right after school, how most everyone had been so much older and stronger than him. “It wasn’t easy. Everyone had a higher rank or was older and that made it hard to talk to them or just live together comfortably, right? But thankfully when I got assigned to a squad, I met Taetae and we helped each other out a lot. It got better after that.”
“Is that why you’re still best friends even though he’s in Daegu now?”
“Yep,” Jimin says. “And because he’s incredible. Once he got furlough because he helped a lady pick up the contents of her spilled purse when he was going back to base, from his furlough! Turned out it was a general’s wife and she was so impressed at his politeness that she talked the general into giving him extra time off.” He snorts with reawakened disbelief, but can’t help the fond smile creeping onto his face.
“Sounds like you getting furlough for being good at soccer,” Jungkook teases in reply.
Jimin just grins, wiggling his hips at the bed. “Star of the Gundaesliga.” When he twirls with a dramatic kick and poses, Jungkook scrunches his nose up and starts laughing. Even though Jungkook is mostly laughing at him, it’s still a sight that makes Jimin’s heart go a little gooey in his chest, the sticky, warm feeling tickling his insides. “Shut up,” he tells Jungkook all the same because he doesn’t like to be laughed at. “Get up and set the table.”
“You were the one who kicked me out of the kitchen,” Jungkook retorts, but he gets up all the same. He’s barely taken a step when his phone beeps and he pulls it out to look at the message. “Oh, it’s Yoongi-hyung.”
Curious, Jimin cranes his neck but of course he’s too far way to see anything. “Your boss?”
“He says to bring you along for our team dinner tomorrow.” Jungkook lifts his head and smiles. “Wanna come?”
For a second, Jimin is entirely dumbfounded. “You--you told your boss about me?”
“Uh, yeah. Is that… not good?”
“And he doesn’t mind?”
“No, he’s really nice.” Jungkook cocks his head. “And I wanted to tell him about you, hyung.”
A thousand thoughts swirl around Jimin’s head so for a moment he just gapes like a fish. Then his emotions catch up and he has to swallow against the press of tears. When he remembers how his mouth functions, he blurts the first thing that comes to mind. “I love you.”
If Jimin thought that he had a moment of emotional short-circuiting, it was nothing to Jungkook’s reaction, whose jaw lowers in almost comical slow-motion, and then he straight-up drops his phone. It falls from his slack hands like a stone and lands right on his foot with a dull thud. Jungkook folds in half, hissing in pain, hands going to the poor instep that kept his phone from harm.
“Oh God, Jungkook!” With a yelp, Jimin takes the few steps over to his boyfriend, crouching down to clamp his fingers over Jungkook’s.
“Ouch,” Jungkook groans, tilting forward until his forehead presses into Jimin’s shoulder and Jimin immediately lifts a hand to brush over his hair soothingly. “I really didn’t expect you to say that.”
Jimin laughs remorsefully. “It probably wasn’t good timing at all.”
“No!” Jungkook whips his head up. “No, please don’t think that. Don’t take it back.”
Despite being worried that Jungkook would end up with a painful bruise as a consequence of the sudden declaration, Jimin can’t help but smile goofily at that. “Okay. I won’t.”
“Good.” Jungkook grins back at him and bends forward to kiss him, awkward angles and all.
Their apartment is full of the furniture Jungkook designs (and delivers) and Yoongi builds. When he first saw the designs Jungkook created for himself, Jimin wondered how such a broad, strong guy liked designs that flowed softly, full of rounded edges and a hint of playfulness. Now he thinks it can’t be any other way.
Their bed is made of beech for reasons Jungkook never disclosed, turning all smirky in reply to Jimin’s increasingly curious questions. Most of their downstairs furniture, however, is made from gorgeous, honey-colored maple wood because Jungkook loves the natural swirls that give a gentle lightness to every piece. It’s expensive but they manage. What they put into their furniture, they save on apartment space itself, deciding on a small one-bedroom place in favor of decorating to their liking.
Jimin likes to curl up reading in the rocking chair Jungkook designed just for him, squeezed into the corner created by their couch and desk, whenever Jungkook wants to spend the night sketching or playing online games. Sometimes he stretches out a leg and digs his toes into Jungkook’s thigh, getting offended noises in return before Jungkook absently starts to massage his foot, making Jimin hide a smile in his shirt.
“You’re the best boyfriend in the world,” Jimin tells him one night when Jungkook is deep into his Overwatch session, too engrossed to do more than impatiently trap Jimin’s foot under his thigh. It’s heavy and warm, making Jimin want to stretch deliciously into the sensation.
“Mhmm… huh? What?” Jungkook doesn’t look away from the screen.
Grinning, Jimin wiggles the trapped toes. “I said I love you because you’re amazing, Jungkookie.”
“That’s nice,” Jungkook hums back distractedly before he starts to attack his keyboard, yelling nonsense.
Jimin laughs into his book.
“Hurry up, hyung, you’re gonna be late!” Jungkook calls from the kitchen area.
In the bathroom, Jimin curses, throwing down his hairbrush. “Is it that late already?”
He kicks off his bathroom slippers and struggles to put on the house slippers, hopping to the end of the short hallway. “I don’t think I have time,” he says breathlessly, finally getting the stubborn slipper on right. Jungkook looks up from where he’s setting bowls on the table. “I forgot to iron my shirt last night.”
Actually, Jimin didn’t exactly forget. He just found it much more important to make a beeline for the couch and plant his face right on Jungkook’s thigh after he came home the night before. When Jungkook reached out to run a hand through his hair, rubbing over the short bristles above his ears, Jimin melted happily and decided shirts could come later.
In front of him, Jungkook rolls his eyes. “Sit and eat, hyung. I’ll do it.”
“No, I was the lazy one, I’ll do it myself.”
Jungkook stubbornly sets his jaw. “Just eat. I can iron faster than you anyways.”
Contrite, Jimin settles at the table as Jungkook goes to plug in the iron and disappears up the stairs to fetch one of Jimin’s uniform shirts. “We need to do laundry tonight,” he comments when he comes back down and Jimin nods with his mouth full of pickled cucumber.
Jungkook is right about his ironing skills; it only takes him five minutes to get the shirt wrinkle-free. He settles it gently over the back of a kitchen chair and moves to sit across from Jimin.
Jimin catches his wrist, stroking his thumb over Jungkook’s skin. “Thank you, Jungkook-ah.”
Jungkook’s lips quirk up at the corners as he shakes his head. “Just do it properly next time, hyung.”
Because he knows it’ll annoy Jungkook, Jimin sighs dramatically and pulls a sappy face. “You’re so good to me. I’m in love!”
As expected, Jungkook yanks his wrist free with a snort and pushes Jimin’s arm away. “Why aren’t you eating already? How can you catch bad guys with an empty stomach?”
Laughing, Jimin scoops up a spoonful of soup and enjoys his breakfast. Fifteen minutes later, he’s buttoning up the turquoise uniform shirt while Jungkook gathers the dirty dishes. Sidling up to his boyfriend, Jimin bends close to pepper kisses on his cheek. “Leave those in the sink, okay? I’ll wash them tonight.”
“They’ll be crusty then,” Jungkook mutters back, turning his head for a proper kiss.
“It’ll be fine. You already cooked.”
Jungkook shrugs but from the set of his shoulders Jimin can tell he’s given in. Smiling, Jimin pecks him a final time and pulls back to close the last button. “Alright, gotta go. See you later, Jungkookie. I love you.”
In reply, Jungkook gently hipchecks him in the direction of the door, hands full of plates and bowls. “Be safe, hyung.”
“Mhmm, yeah, that’s fine, we can do that,” Jimin says, adjusting his cell phone.
“Sorry, hyung,” Jungkook answers on the other end, sounding dejected. “I know you were excited about getting that lamp today.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it. Tomorrow works just as well.”
“Alright. I gotta go now. See you later then.”
“See you at home,” Jimin says. “Love you.”
When he puts his cell phone away, his partner Namjoon is side-eyeing him from the driver’s seat.
“What?” Jimin asks.
“You guys are so cheesy.”
Jimin rolls his eyes, not deigning to reply.
“No really,” Namjoon grins. “Who even says ‘I love you’ at the end of phone calls anymore these days? Not old married couples like you guys for sure.”
“We’re not even married,” Jimin points out.
Namjoon waves that protest right off. “You might as well be. How long have you been together now? Three years?”
“Two years in a couple of weeks.”
“And still full of cheese for each other,” Namjoon teases.
Laughing, Jimin punches his shoulder in retaliation. “Your head is full of cheese.”
But as his smile fades, he starts wondering. Were they really full of cheese for each other? Sure, Jimin likes to joke around and say cringeworthy stuff because he knows it makes Jungkook shudder in disgust, but these days he doesn’t say it with feeling anymore. It’s become a rote thing, a way of teasing. A lot of things in their relationship have faded in that manner. Where before they ate their meals almost absently, more focused on each other than the food, now they sometimes barely exchange a sentence over breakfast. When they first moved in together, they did all the chores together, nudging and playing around and now it’s a matter of splitting them up according to schedule. Some nights they spend doing entirely separate activities, and some days they don’t even see each other thanks to Jimin’s shift roster and Jungkook’s delivery times. Days can pass without Jimin once feeling for himself how much he loves Jungkook.
He chews on his lip. Is it bad that their relationship has become like this? Is that normal? It’ll be their two-year anniversary soon and already they’re starting to look like one of those couples who live their lives in parallel, never overlapping. That’s not what he wants their relationship to be like. He wants it to be full of caring and warmth, for Jungkook to know that he’s cherished and loved, and to be cherished and loved in return. Maybe he should make more of a point to express his love?
“Hey, wanna stop for a coffee before we turn back?” Namjoon’s question pulls Jimin out of his thoughts.
“Sure,” he says. “You owe me a latte anyways.”
Namjoon squawks, offended. “What? I told you it wasn’t me who ate the biscuits! Why do you never believe me?” he asks mournfully. “I’m your partner!”
When Jimin gets home at night, the apartment is dark--Jungkook is still out on his late delivery, just as he said on the phone earlier. It feels a little lonely, so Jimin puts on music and changes into comfortable clothes, putting on a load of laundry and then pushing up his sleeves to start on the stock for their dinner stew. He’s in the middle of mixing the seasoning into the pak choy side dish he freshly prepared, the jjigae bubbling on the stove behind him, when the front door opens.
“Jimin, I’m home,” Jungkook calls, sounding tired.
“Dinner’s almost done!” Jimin tosses sesame seeds into his bowl.
After the rustle of clothing stops, Jungkook appears around the corner on slippered feet. “Are you making kimchi jjigae?” He peers into the cheerfully bubbling earthenware pot.
“Sundubu,” Jimin says, turning around to get to the sink and wash off his hands.
Jungkook crowds him against the counter, sneaking hands around his waist. “With pork belly?” he asks eagerly.
“Praise the Lord,” Jungkook proclaims, dramatically draping himself over Jimin’s back.
Jimin snickers, elbowing him lightly in the ribs. “Get off, I need to put in the tofu.”
Obligingly, Jungkook backs away to open the fridge. He hands out the tofu package, then peers back inside. “Do you want the leftover spinach as well?”
“And the beans,” Jimin says, focused on gently plopping the tofu into the pot. Jungkook rummages around behind him, gathering bowls and side dishes, spooning out rice and setting the table.
Maybe it’s his thoughts from earlier in the day, maybe it’s Ed Sheeran softly crooning on in the background, but when Jimin sets the jjigae on the table, he feels a bit melty with domestic bliss. Jungkook looks entirely focused on the food, eyeing the egg sitting in the middle of the still bubbling stew, and a wave of fondness makes Jimin lean down to put their foreheads together.
Surprised, Jungkook blinks at him. “What is it?”
Jimin shakes his head, grinning. “Nothing. I just really, really love you.”
“...you’re so cheesy,” Jungkook mutters, but his expression is soft and he leans forward until he can press his cheek into Jimin’s neck.
“That’s what Namjoon said.”
“He’s a smart man,” Jungkook replies mock-gravely. When he pulls back upright, his cheeks are flushed. “Jiminie-hyung. Put away the potholders and let’s eat.”
Jimin does as he’s asked. But even as his body warms to the toes with the comfort of spicy jjigae, he can’t help the thought that Jungkook didn’t say he loved him back.
Love, Jimin thinks, is a strange thing. On some days it fills him up so much that it feels as if he’s floating; on other days it seems to retreat into some private corner of his heart until coaxed out again by an unexpected moment. He’s always thought his relationships would be full of loud, bubbling, unabashed love, but now, after almost two years with Jungkook, on most days his love is a quiet hum in the back of his mind, easily overlooked unless he pays attention.
He wonders if it’s the same for Jungkook. Did he also undergo this sneaking transformation? Did his butterflies desert him?
Frowning, Jimin tries to think back on the start of their relationship. What had it been like? He remembers feeling giddy, eagerly anticipating every meetup, agonizing over how long it took Jungkook to answer text messages sometimes -- truly a rollercoaster going up and down and up and down, always questioning everything because they didn’t really know each other. Jungkook back then was so shy and awkward, as if he was half-afraid to touch Jimin. But he was never afraid to pour all his attention into Jimin, following him around rooms with his big eyes like drinking in Jimin’s every expression slowly unlocked to him the secrets to the universe.
Now, it’s much easier to conjure up an image of a tired Jungkook mechanically spooning food into his mouth after a long day, of Jungkook’s annoyed eye-roll when Jimin leaves the dishes for later, of him trudging out the door for gym practice with only an absent peck that lands somewhere near the corner of Jimin’s lips. With a quiet sense of dread, Jimin chews on the inside of his mouth. Maybe living together has become something Jungkook is used to rather than something he truly wants. He has never been very vocal about his feelings so maybe he just feels awkward telling Jimin that the spark has gone, that he’s just sticking around because it’s easy. Maybe Jimin has lost that magical pull for him.
When was the last time Jungkook said “I love you”? Jimin can’t remember. In fact... racking his brain, he can’t remember that Jungkook ever said it to him at all. Not when Jimin said it for the first time, certainly, and somehow not even once after.
Is it possible? Did Jungkook not even once say “I love you” back? An ugly coldness settles in his stomach. That can’t be right, can it? Jimin thinks, nauseous. He must just have forgotten. They’ve been together for almost two years now and just because the honeymoon phase is over doesn’t mean they don’t love each other just as much as before… right?
When his phone vibrates on the wooden couch table, Jimin almost jumps out of his skin. “Fuck,” he curses breathlessly, clutching a hand to his wildly beating heart. It vibrates a second time, obnoxiously loud in the quiet apartment, and Jimin cringes again. He fishes for it, seeing Jungkook’s name. Last delivery now. And: Yoongi-hyung wants to get lamb skewers tonight. Wanna come?
Jimin’s thumb hovers over the screen indecisively. He isn’t nearly as fond of lamb skewers as Jungkook and Yoongi-hyung are and Jungkook knows it. Over the years of the two working together, lamb skewers have become their thing and it feels intrusive to tag along. But a part of Jimin is also annoyed that if he refuses, he won’t see Jungkook for dinner when the entire next week late shifts will keep him from their dinner table already. And, he admits to himself reluctantly, he feels raw and vulnerable with dark thoughts about their relationship swimming around in his head. He really, really wants to see Jungkook soon. So he slides open the app and texts back his acceptance, feeling like a needy teenager with a first crush.
“Urgh,” he mutters to himself, throwing his phone into the opposite corner of their couch. “I’m an idiot.” But idiot or not, he stands to make himself presentable.
An hour later he’s sitting at a table with Jungkook, Yoongi, and -- thankfully -- their coworkers Seokjin and Hoseok who do all the number and client-related work in the small company. They even made Yoongi’s apprentice Yugyeom tag along, so Jimin feels much less awkward about showing up. Yoongi and Jungkook sometimes get into their own world when it comes to their furniture, but the others are open and welcoming, always happy to see him.
“Jiminie, it’s so nice you came to eat with us,” Seokjin says across from Jimin, smiling brightly at him.
Next to Seokjin, Yoongi snorts. “You only say that because now you have a reason to order all the side dishes.”
Seokjin smacks him on the arm in outrage, but everyone else laughs. Jimin grins into his bite of chili tofu, then pushes the serving plate across the table. “It’s alright, hyung, I’m glad not to eat all these alone.”
With a sniff at Yoongi, Seokjin picks up a slice of tofu himself. “Not everyone is a heathen who likes their meal to consist of meat alone. Proper meals have a balance.”
While Yoongi and Seokjin entertain everyone with their good-natured bickering, Jimin watches Jungkook drop his last skewer, empty of meat. He leans back into his seat with a content sigh, taking a gulp of his Tsingtao, then shifts to rest his hand on Jimin’s thigh. With all the grills, it’s hot in the restaurant even on a chilly October night, but Jimin is happy to have Jungkook pressed against his side and the warm weight of his hand on his leg. He brushes his thumb over Jungkook’s knuckles and gets it trapped by a playful pinky finger for a second before they focus on the rest of the group again. Their table is boisterous with teasing and laughter and because it’s one of those nights that feel like they should last forever, it takes them another two hours to finally get up to leave.
Jimin has almost forgotten the thoughts that plagued him earlier, but when they get home to their quiet apartment, they return to his head as if they have been waiting right behind the front door this whole time. He tries not to watch Jungkook from the corner of his eyes as they slip off their jackets and shoes and fails spectacularly. Jungkook doesn’t seem to notice anything wrong, just puts on his slippers and heads around the corner to the kitchen space. Jimin follows him, leaning against the counter and watching him fill a glass with the barley tea they keep in the fridge, thinking how pretty Jungkook’s throat looks as he swallows.
When Jungkook sets down his glass, he looks over at Jimin. “Is everything ok?”
“Of course,” Jimin says, sounding awkward to his own ears.
Jungkook cocks his head. “Did I forget to buy rice again?”
That makes Jimin smile. “No, not this time.”
“Oh.” Jungkook grins back. “That’s good.” He steps closer, stopping so that he can put his hands on the counter on either side of Jimin. “What’s up, hyung? Are you angry?” he asks softly.
Jimin shakes his head. “No. I just…” Jungkook is studying him with a slight frown and it reminds Jimin so much of the old days that he feels weak. Slumping forward so his head rests against Jungkook’s collarbone, Jimin sighs. “Jungkookie.”
“Hmm?” The tip of Jungkook’s nose presses into his hair.
Jimin takes a deep breath, suddenly so tired, inhales the smell of grilled meat clinging to Jungkook’s clothes and the lingering scent of his cologne buried underneath. Instead of answering, he presses his lips against Jungkook’s warm neck. He leaves one kiss, two, then brushes them up to Jungkook’s jaw, closing his mouth gently around the edge. Jungkook makes a small noise and his hands settle on Jimin’s waist. It’s so easy to fit their lips together. Jimin can taste the beer and lamb meat Jungkook had, the earthy flavor of barley tea, and it all blends so well into the familiar warmth of Jungkook’s mouth that he feels like floating with the rightness of it all. Sliding a hand up Jungkook’s back, Jimin pushes closer, feeling the first licks of urgency in his belly.
The little sounds Jungkook makes fan the flames, always have been Jimin’s favorite -- the abrupt inhale when Jimin brushes a particularly sensitive spot, the involuntary noise at the back of his throat when he’s surprised, the breathless moan when it all gets too much. Jimin drinks them in and gets drunk on them, pouring himself into Jungkook to get more and more.
They stumble up the stairs to their bedroom, strangely urgent like they haven’t been in a long time, and sink onto the sheets with hot, insistent kisses. Everything feels heavy and frantic. Jimin smothers a moan against the sweaty skin of Jungkook’s shoulder, arching under the way Jungkook’s fingers run over his chest and around to his back, gripping at his hip. Senselessly, he mouths at the skin under his lips as he clutches Jungkook tighter.
Jungkook bends his head for another kiss, sloppy and wet with how he’s panting. He lifts the hem of Jimin’s shirt and they undress, sliding their hands over newly exposed skin, breathing each other in.
It’s when Jungkook is inside him, their hips pushed together and sticky with sweat, that Jimin feels like his heart might burst. Jungkook’s head is cocked, his eyebrows drawn together as if he’s listening to something deep inside that only he can hear. He looks wrecked even as his hips move so steadily and reverently that Jimin can only lift his hand and cup Jungkook’s cheek. “Jungkook-ah,” he breathes, stretching up his thumb to brush it over Jungkook’s furrowed brow, watching as Jungkook opens his eyes to meet his gaze. “I love you.”
Above him, Jungkook’s lashes flutter with his next thrust. Then he suddenly drops forward until their chests touch, burying the tip of his nose into the sweaty hair beside Jimin’s temple. Jimin can hear his shuddering inhale, the way his breath comes out as a hitching moan, “Jimin.” The sound goes straight to Jimin’s groin, making him clench helplessly around Jungkook. “F-fuck,” Jungkook says in the same half-choked voice, “Jimin.” His hips jerk in a stutter, his belly rubs right against Jimin’s dick, and then they’re rutting frantically until they spiral out of control and Jimin comes with a wordless noise that gets caught in his throat, Jungkook shivering and ringing for air above him.
They stay like that for a while afterwards, collapsed onto the mattress. Jimin is glad. Basking in the comforting weight of Jungkook on top of him, he tries not to think about how his declaration has gone unanswered again. But the thought lingers on, creeps down his veins to settle in his belly like a block of ice. Sweat is cooling on his skin, making him shiver. When Jungkook moves his head to nose along his jaw, Jimin can’t stand it anymore and pushes him off. He winces when Jungkook slips out of him with a wet sound. Grabbing for the tissue box, Jimin cleans himself off before he pushes the box blindly over to Jungkook and gets up to head downstairs into the bathroom.
He’s almost done brushing his teeth when Jungkook slips in, trailing an absentminded hand over Jimin’s lower back as he reaches for his own toothbrush. The gesture is so loving and domestic that the anxious coils inside of Jimin tighten until he feels like he’s one touch away from shattering. Hurriedly, he spits out the toothpaste, rinses, wipes and drops the toothbrush back into its place with a clatter, fleeing from the room.
When Jungkook comes back upstairs, Jimin is already rolled into his blanket, eyes closed and facing away from Jungkook’s side of the bed. Jimin almost trembles with dread that Jungkook might give him a goodnight kiss like usual, but maybe Jungkook senses that something is up because he only softly swipes a hand over Jimin’s blanket-clad shoulder. “Sleep tight,” he says, and when Jimin just clutches the blanket closer around himself, he turns off the light and slips under the covers with a quiet sigh.
The next morning, they eat their breakfast in silence. It’s not that different from other sleepy Saturday mornings, but it feels strained to Jimin. He resolutely keeps his eyes on his food instead of staring at Jungkook likes he wants to do, looking for any sign that Jungkook is fed up with their relationship, that he wants to be somewhere else and just doesn’t know how to bring it up.
“I have to quickly go into the shop this morning,” Jungkook says. He sounds entirely normal.
Wondering if he’s disappointed or not, Jimin reaches his chopsticks towards the sprouts. “Hm?”
“Yoongi-hyung has a question about one of the designs. You have the late shift, right, hyung?”
This time, he doesn’t need to watch like a hawk to detect the downward turn to Jungkook’s lips. “Ah. I probably won’t be back before you leave.”
Stilling, Jimin thinks, Jungkook is unhappy about that. It’s a weird feeling, to breathe a little easier even when your heart still feels like a rock stuck in your chest. It doesn’t prove anything. “Yeah,” Jimin says again, quietly.
Jungkook sighs, then takes his bowl and gets up. “Do you want more rice?”
Jimin shakes his head, mechanically spooning up soup to keep himself from watching Jungkook round the counter to head to the rice cooker. ‘Do you want more rice?’ What is wrong with him? It’s frustrating how utterly normal Jungkook is being, as if he’s just as content in the relationship as he’s always been. As if he isn’t leaving Jimin’s ‘I love you’s hanging in the air without response or as if that isn’t an issue. But it is , Jimin thinks, viciously scooping up a chunk of rice. They’re nearing their two-year anniversary. Is it too much to ask to get a proper response after such a long time together? Doesn’t he deserve a response? Is he that worthless?
His cheeks are bulging with the huge bite of rice he stuffed into his mouth when Jungkook returns to the table. Somehow, Jimin suddenly feels ugly and small, struggling to chew the food and swallow down against the tightness of his throat. Jungkook is right there, happily eating his breakfast, while Jimin is choked up with frustration and burning humiliation. When his nose heats up with the tell-tale flush of impending tears, Jimin abruptly shoves his chair back and gathers his bowls. “I’ll take a shower,” he announces hastily, retreating from the table.
He takes his time and when he pulls back the curtain and reaches for his towel, Jungkook is just placing his toothbrush back in its place, wiping at his mouth. Jimin focuses on drying off instead of checking whether Jungkook is looking at him through the mirror, eyes flitting over him like they always do when Jungkook is reading him. He’s rubbing at his hair when Jungkook steps up to the shower.
“I have to go now,” he says, reaching up a hand to push the towel away from Jimin’s face. “See you tomorrow morning, hyung. Be safe.” He leans in and kisses Jimin softly, almost hesitantly, and when he backs away Jimin can see the little furrow between his eyebrows.
Jimin’s heart squeezes. He lets go of his towel to slide his fingers over Jungkook’s shoulder, just a quick brush of the hand. “Bye, Jungkook-ah.” The ‘I love you’ is at the tip of his tongue and he has to deliberately close his mouth against it.
As Jimin blow-dries his hair, the unsaid words sit right under his ribs and seem to burn a hole into him. They stay there while he dresses in his uniform, stay there while he slowly cleans up the kitchen, stay there while he vacuums the apartment. When he writes a note to Jungkook that he needs to pick up kelp when he goes out for groceries later, Jimin hesitates for a long moment over the ending. A hand curled over his ribs, he finally adds ‘I love you’ to the note, just like he’s always done.
It stands out black on white in a forceful scratch. Jimin stares at it, wondering if maybe he should have kept it to himself. He always said ‘I love you’ so easily, at any possible and impossible moment, even when he was scolding people. How often has he stood in front of Jungkook to bring up an annoyance, saying, “Jungkook-ah, you know I love you but…”? Was it too much? Is he pressuring Jungkook by saying it so often? Making him uncomfortable? Is there even a lot of feeling behind it many of the times he says it? Does it make him a liar to use it as such a rote phrase?
Shoving the note away in frustration, Jimin turns his back on the counter. He needs to stop thinking about this and go put on his shoes or he’ll be late for work.
As expected, he sees very little of Jungkook for the following week thanks to his shift schedule. By the time his last day of late shift rolls around on Thursday, Jimin is fed up with coming home to Jungkook already curled into bed and fast asleep, even as he still hasn’t figured out for himself what to do or even what to feel about not having heard ‘I love you’ once as long as they have been together. Out on their last patrol ride of the day, Jimin is jittery and distracted and finally, Namjoon speaks up.
“What’s with you?” he asks from behind the wheel, giving Jimin a frowning, side-eyed glance.
“Nothing,” Jimin says. “I’m fine.”
“Right,” Namjoon mutters. “Listen--” He breaks off with a frustrated noise and clamps a hand over Jimin’s wiggling leg. “For God’s-- stop that. You’ve been like this all week. What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Jimin repeats stubbornly.
Namjoon ignores him. “Is it your parents? Your brother? Jungkook?”
Jimin pushes Namjoon’s hand off his leg. “Can we not talk about this?”
“Wait,” Namjoon says, sounding vaguely horrified. “Jungkook?” His eyes are big as saucers and before Jimin can say another word, Namjoon is signalling and pulling over the car at the side of the road. “You guys didn’t break up, did you?”
“No!” Jimin says loudly, mortified. “Can we please just go on?”
“Thank God.” Namjoon looks visibly relieved. “Did you guys fight?”
Realizing that Namjoon is hell-bent on discussing this topic, Jimin slumps into his seat. “No,” he says tiredly. “We didn’t fight. Everything’s the same as always.”
Namjoon frowns. “Jimin…”
In the silence of the car, Jimin can feel Namjoon staring, an air of worry hovering about him like a shadow. He curls deeper into himself under the gaze. “Hyung,” he says, way too informal while they’re still in their uniforms, but Namjoon only hums an acknowledgement. “Am I too emotional?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
Jimin picks at his uniform pants. “The other day, you said I was cheesy. Am I… is it too much?” When he looks up uncertainly, Namjoon’s lips are pressed together.
“It works for you,” he says after a short silence. “It comes naturally for you so it doesn’t seem too much.” At Jimin’s grimace, he presses, “Did Jungkook complain about it?”
“No! No, I just... “ Jimin takes a deep breath, fixing his eyes on the crease in his pants. “He’s never said ‘I love you’ back.” He can feel Namjoon draw back in surprise, feels his neck burning in mortification, his jaw clenched in frustration.
“He--” Namjoon breaks off, rearranges his words. “Is that why? You think he’s somehow… bothered when you say it?”
Jerking his shoulder in a tense imitation of a shrug, Jimin says, “I don’t know. He doesn’t look angry or disgusted or anything, but. I just don’t know.”
The silence that descends is heavy with unsaid words and makes the rustle of clothes when Namjoon runs a hand through his hair sound unnaturally loud. After what feels like forever, Namjoon clasps a hand around the steering wheel again, clearing his throat. “I think you should talk to Jungkook. Or at least talk to one of his friends, like… like Yoongi-ssi.”
“Right,” Jimin mutters not very convincingly.
If Namjoon notices, he doesn’t say anything else, just starts up the car. “Let’s finish our round.”
When Jimin returns home that night, Jungkook is asleep just like the past days. After washing up, Jimin trudges up the stairs to the bed and changes into his pajamas as quietly as possible. When he crawls under the covers, his whole body feels as if it’s made of lead with how tired he is, how tired his heart is. He watches Jungkook’s blanket-covered shoulder rise and fall against the dim light from outside while a painful burning sensation spreads from his heart all through his chest and down to his fingertips. He misses Jungkook. Even though he’s right there, Jimin misses him, misses the certainty of his love, the feeling of safety in his presence. Now everything is murky and cold and when Jimin turns over to face the wall, he pulls the blanket closer to ward off the loneliness.
By the time Jimin wakes up on Friday morning, Jungkook is already gone, leaving breakfast on the table for him. Looking at the carefully covered bowls, the little note that says ‘Be back by 3! Let’s go shopping together later!’, the way Jungkook’s side of the table is meticulously cleaned of splatters, Jimin finally admits that Namjoon was right. Thinking and doubting all by himself is getting him nowhere. Maybe he’s not up to talking to Jungkook just yet, but he can at least go to Yoongi for help. Resolving to visit the shop right that morning, he sits to eat.
When he walks into the small showroom, it’s sometime past eleven. Seokjin is manning the counter, a smile spreading over his face as soon as he spies Jimin. “Jiminie! Welcome! I didn’t expect to see you again so soon.”
“Hey Jinnie-hyung.” Grinning despite himself, Jimin stops at the counter. “Slow day?”
Seokjin waves a dismissive hand. “Pshaw, you’re lucky you came in when it’s quiet. It was a madhouse here all morning.” He bends forward, dramatically raising his eyebrows. “Some fancy architect wants Yoongi to furnish the entirety of his new office. Down to the coat rack!”
“Wow!” Thinking of how much work that means makes Jimin’s head spin. “Wow, will they be able to handle all of that?”
Seokjin shrugs helplessly. “Yoongi might have to take on a new trainee or an assistant. Even Jungkook might need help with designs soon.”
Jimin has a hard time believing that anyone can offer designs like Jungkook. When he meets Seokjin’s eyes, he’s a little embarrassed to see that Seokjin read that thought right off his face and is wearing an indulging grin. “Business is really taking off, huh?” Jimin asks quickly, voice a little too loud to cover up his mortification.
“Mhmm,” Seokjin hums cheerily, reaching over to pat Jimin’s arm. “Jungkookie is doing very well. It’s good you’re proud of him.”
“Yes, well.” Jimin is so proud he might burst, but thinking of Jungkook also brings back the hurt and anger festering right under his ribs, so he shifts uncomfortably. “I’ll go say hello to Yoongi-hyung.” With a wave, he turns and flees to the back of the store where Yoongi’s work space is located. As soon as Jimin steps inside, he’s wrapped in the warm aroma of wood shavings and glue. Yoongi’s beanie-covered head is bent over a small carving, but he looks up when Jimin shuts the door behind himself.
“Park Jimin,” he greets evenly, although his eyebrows twitch upwards in mild surprise.
Jimin can’t fault him that; it’s been forever since he last visited Yoongi’s work space. “Hi Yoongi-hyung.” In the back of the room, Yugyeom sets down the board he was carrying and waves enthusiastically at Jimin. Laughing, Jimin waves back. “Hi Yugyeom-ah!”
Yoongi sniffs and points at Yugyeom. “Do your work!” Even though it sounds like he barely raised his voice, the gravelly tone carries and sends Yugyeom scrambling for his pencil and rule. With a satisfied tilt of his lips, Yoongi turns back to Jimin. “Jungkook is out discussing designs with a client.”
“Ah,” Jimin stalls, inching closer. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you for a second.”
Yoongi’s eyes narrow the tiniest bit, but he points at a mostly clean stretch of workbench. “Sit.” He waits until Jimin has arranged himself, then bends over his work again. “What is it, Park Jimin? Has something happened?”
Now that Yoongi’s eyes are no longer on him, Jimin feels a little less nervous about the impending conversation. The rhythmic movements of Yoongi’s long hands are strangely soothing, so he fixes his eyes on them, trying to gather his thoughts. “Jungkook and my two-year anniversary is in two weeks, did you know that?”
“Has he… has he said anything about it?”
“Said what?” Yoongi asks, squinting at his carving and gently shaving off a tiny sliver of wood.
“Like,” Jimin swallows painfully, “like he’s not happy? With me.”
At that, Yoongi’s movements stop abruptly and his head slowly swivels around to face Jimin. “Is this some kind of joke?”
Pressing his lips together tightly against the tremble and returning Yoongi’s stare, Jimin tries for calmness. “Does it look like one?”
After a short, pregnant pause, Yoongi sets his gouge aside and turns the rest of his body over in Jimin’s direction. “Alright. What’s going on?”
Jimin fidgets, unsure of where to start without sounding like he’s blowing the entire thing out of proportion. If Yoongi was more of an open, expressive person, maybe Jimin wouldn’t feel so ridiculous trying to talk about a lack of love declarations, but as it is, Yoongi is watching him with a blank face, looking about as empathetic as the piece of wood next to him. When the silence stretches into uncomfortable thinness, Jimin finally sighs and lowers his head. “Have you ever heard Jungkook say that he loves me?” he asks tentatively.
Yoongi blinks slowly, calculating. “Why are you asking that?”
“This’ll sound stupid,” Jimin mutters, curling further into himself. “Hyung, I’ve never heard him say it. We’ve been together for so long already and I tell him all the time but he’s never said it back. I’m… doesn’t he love me?” His voice comes out small and scared at the end and he hates it. When Yoongi suddenly scoffs, Jimin starts in surprise, whipping his head up.
“You’re damn right it sounds stupid,” Yoongi says acidly, making Jimin cringe in mortification. Then he bends forward and his tone softens a bit. “Listen, I could sit here all day telling you that kid is up to his fucking ears in love with you. But ask yourself, Park Jimin: why are you here? Do you really believe me when I tell you all this? Does it make it all better?”
Searching inside of himself, Jimin finds the hurt and anger still throbbing behind his ribs. It’s nice to hear that Yoongi is convinced of Jungkook’s feelings but it doesn’t make the pain of not feeling loved go away. Maybe, Jimin admits, it makes him even angrier because if Jungkook really loves him like Yoongi says, then why doesn’t he say so? Why does he just ignore it whenever Jimin says it, like he didn’t even hear it? Lips pressed together firmly, Jimin shakes his head.
Yoongi nods in satisfaction. “Yes, that’s what I thought. Talk to him. This is a relationship with two people, is it not?”
And even in that, Yoongi is maddeningly right. Sighing, Jimin uncurls to watch as Yoongi goes back to his work, expertly guiding the gouge over the hazel-colored piece of wood. It must be nice to be so certain and confident in everything, he thinks idly, as under his gaze the wood takes on the elegant, airy curves that he loves in Jungkook’s designs. It’s fascinating to watch and Jimin slowly gets sucked into a kind of trance, so that when the door to the workshop suddenly opens, he almost falls off his perch in surprise. Heart racing with the shock, he looks up to see Jungkook in the door. Their eyes meet and then Jimin’s heart is racing with a second spurt of adrenaline.
“Jiminie-hyung!” Jungkook lights up like the sun, beaming so hard his face crinkles. He bounds over to the workbench, grabbing Jimin’s hand and pressing their cheeks together gently. “What’re you doing here? Were you looking for me?”
Over Jungkook’s shoulder, Jimin catches sight of the smug face Yoongi directs at him and grimaces. Okay, yeah, maybe he was being stupid earlier, no need to rub it in. He basks in Jungkook’s obvious pleasure at his presence, greedily soaking in the body heat Jungkook radiates, the firm warmth of the thigh pressed against his; it heals some of the hurt in his heart, and so he’s able to warmly smile up at Jungkook. “Yoongi-hyung said you were with a client. Congratulations at bagging that big order by that architect guy.”
“You heard about that?” Jungkook grins, ducking his head. “Thank you.”
“Speaking of which,” Yoongi interrupts a little too loudly, “shouldn’t you be with him to talk about designs, Jungkook-ah?”
Jungkook turns to face him, but leaves a hand resting on Jimin’s knee. “I just came back to get a sample of that cocobolo order that came in last week.”
“He wants something flashy, huh?” Yoongi snorts. “Shocking.”
“Good thing you ordered the ‘flashy’ stock after all, hyung,” Jungkook replies cheekily. When Yoongi just waves him off, he laughs a little and turns back to Jimin. His hand strokes over Jimin’s jeans. “I have to leave again, sorry.”
Jimin shakes his head. “It’s fine. I’ll go home first and then we can get some groceries later.”
“Okay.” With a smile, Jungkook brushes his lips over Jimin’s hair. “See you later, Jiminie-hyung.”
Jimin watches him go to the back and talk to Yugyeom, selecting short sample boards from one of the shelves before he waves at them all and disappears out into the shop again. When the door has closed, Jimin sighs again, sliding down from the workbench and dusting off his pants. “You’re right, hyung,” he says to Yoongi, who pretends to be engrossed in his work. “I’ll talk to him.”
Yoongi only gives a vague hum in return, but when Jimin turns to him to say goodbye, he has a small, content smile lifting up the corners of his mouth.
Jungkook comes home in the early afternoon and they manage to almost finish their grocery run before it starts pouring outside. After running the last stretch to their building, they stumble into the elevator panting and slightly damp.
“It could’ve held up five more minutes,” Jimin complains, shifting his bags into one hand to comb the water drops out of his short hair with the other.
Jungkook hums in agreement. “Let’s make a really warm stew tonight.”
“No, let’s make ddeokbokki. I really want to eat that.”
“Mhmm, alright. But I’m making gamjatang tomorrow, we haven’t had it in forever.”
Jimin laughs at him. “Of course we didn’t! Who has the patience to let it cook for so long?”
The elevator doors open on their floor and they shuffle out. “I’ll make it,” Jungkook tells him, poking around in his pocket for the key. “You just enjoy your day off and go meet Jongin-hyung or something.”
“What about the laundry?” Jimin stops behind him as he fiddles with the lock. “It’s your day off too and you’ve been cooking all week.”
With a final rustle of bags, Jungkook opens the door. “I like cooking for you,” he says over his shoulder, “and I want to stay in tomorrow anyways. I can do the laundry while the pork ribs are cooking.”
Toeing off his shoes, Jimin makes a face at him. “How can I just go out and have fun while you’re doing all the chores by yourself? That makes me feel like an old-school husband making his wife do all the housework.”
“Don’t worry, hyung, I’ll be a good wife.” Laughing, Jungkook twists away when Jimin swats at him and escapes into the apartment.
“Jeon Jungkook!” Sliding his feet into his house slippers, Jimin shuffles after him and sets the bags down onto the kitchen counter as well to unpack. “I’d feel bad going out by myself.”
Jungkook glances up from the radish he’s pulling out. “It’s not a big deal, hyung,” he says.
“It should be,” Jimin insists stubbornly. He slaps down the napa cabbage more harshly than he should. “We haven’t even seen each other this week because I got home so late.”
With a shake of his head, Jungkook turns to open the fridge. “It’s okay, that just happens sometimes with your shift schedule.”
“Yeah,” Jimin says bitterly. An understanding boyfriend is really not what he wants right now. It makes him feel like he’s being too emotional once again, unreasonably hung up over this matter when it just really bugs him.
“Let’s stay in and watch a movie tonight,” Jungkook says, head still buried in the fridge to store away their greens. “But you haven’t seen your friends in ages, hyung, you should go and meet up with them tomorrow. The soup will be ready when you get back.”
Is Jungkook trying to get rid of him so badly? Jimin angrily slams down a container of chili flakes, watching in satisfaction as Jungkook jumps and turns to stare at him with big eyes. “I don’t want you to make me soup,” he hisses viciously. “I don’t want to meet Jongin-hyung either!”
Jungkook’s eyebrows draw together into a forbidding frown. “I was just trying to be nice but fine, do whatever you want.”
“Don’t you care at all that we didn’t get to see each other all week?” Jimin bangs the container down again in frustration.
By now, Jungkook looks almost as lost as he looks annoyed. “Of course I do! But I knew about that right from the start, that you have to work shifts. It didn’t happen suddenly.”
“Then why am I the only one frustrated?!”
“I don’t get it,” Jungkook replies tersely, voice rising. “Do you want me to be angry about it? Do you want me to shout at you about your job?”
“No!” Jimin shouts back. “No, I-- just--” But all the discontent and anger seething inside of him strangle any sentence before it can fully form. With a choked noise of rage, he turns back to the grocery bag. “Fine,” he bites out, full of bitterness and frustration, “I’ll go see Jongin-hyung tomorrow. Make your fucking soup.” His eyes burn.
They unpack in tense silence, movements jerky and robotic. Jimin keeps his face turned away so that Jungkook doesn’t see his glassy eyes. It’s only when the last container is packed away and Jungkook closes the door of the spice cabinet that either of them speaks again. Of course it’s Jungkook taking the first step, because Jimin needs more reason to feel like a shitty person.
“Do you want me to be angry about your schedule?” His voice comes out soft and hesitant, like he can’t fully believe that the answer might be yes.
Jimin keeps his eyes fixed on the counter. “I don’t know. Maybe. Not really.”
“Oh.” There are sounds of Jungkook fidgeting in the drawn-out silence. “I don’t understand what you want, hyung,” he finally says, almost a whisper.
Even now he’s looking out for Jimin, caring for him and it feels like a punch in the gut. Maybe, Jimin thinks, it would be easier to deal with all this hurt and confusion if Jungkook was a jerk. Then Jimin could be angry at him, scream and rage until his throat was raw. But Jungkook is sweet and caring and looks at Jimin as if he’s infinitely precious so the hole in Jimin’s heart from the missing words aches all the more. Jimin draws a shuddering breath. “Jungkook-ah,” he says, and he hates how small and uncertain he sounds. “Jungkook-ah, I love you. I love you so much.”
Jungkook is at his side in an instant, gently pulling him in. “Hey,” he says, thoroughly alarmed. “Jiminie. What is it? Hey, shh.” Whispering nonsense into Jimin’s hair, Jungkook holds him close.
Jimin angrily shakes his head, fisting a hand into Jungkook’s shirt. “Why do you never say it?”
“Huh? Say what?”
Pushing away from Jungkook’s chest, Jimin thumps his fist at him. “Why do you never say I love you?” Jungkook’s mouth drops open in surprise, which only fuels Jimin’s rage. “Don’t look so fucking shocked! We’ve been together for almost two years, I tell you all the time, and do you know how often you’ve said it back? Zero times! Not even once!”
Jungkook looks stunned. “I--what?”
In the face of Jungkook’s utter shock, the bubble of anger in Jimin’s chest deflates. “You didn’t even notice?” he asks tiredly, feeling like he aged a decade in a minute. Blindly, he turns away.
“Jimin!” Jungkook lunges for him, catching his wrist and sliding his hand down until he can intertwine their fingers. “I--I’m so sorry, I’m such an idiot, please don’t leave me!”
A sigh rises up from the depths of Jimin’s soul. “I’m not leaving you. I just want an explanation.”
“An explanation? I’m a fucking idiot, that’s the explanation,” Jungkook mutters bitterly behind him, then tugs on the hand he’s still clasping. “Jimin,” he says at a normal volume. “Can you turn around?”
Jimin does as asked, taking in the way Jungkook’s lips are pressed together tightly, his eyebrows scrunched.
“I’m not good at talking about feelings,” Jungkook tells him awkwardly. “And I know that’s not an excuse. I just... didn’t know it was important to you.” He ducks his head. “To hear me say it. That… that I love you.”
The heady rush of feelings almost knocks Jimin off his feet. He grips tightly at Jungkook’s hand, feeling like he might sway at any moment. Dazedly, he thinks that he might not have asked about it if he’d known that hearing Jungkook say it would almost keel him over. “Jungkook-ah…”
Jungkook looks at him with a small, almost pained smile. “I’ll try to say it more, okay? I love you.”
This time, Jimin bursts into breathless, relieved laughter, falling right into Jungkook’s chest with the force of it. His heart is bobbing around somewhere near his throat as if someone filled it with helium, cutting off all his words as he laughs into Jungkook’s warm neck.
Jungkook wraps his arms around him once again, lowering his head to rest his cheek on Jimin’s hair. “Is this how you feel when I don’t say it back?” he mutters, sounding like he’s pouting.
With a big grin, Jimin tells him, “I love you too.”
Even if Jimin is tempted to test Jungkook’s determination to be more vocal at every possible turn, he holds himself back from going overboard. After dinner on that historical Friday night, when they were cuddled on the couch and halfway through their movie, when Jungkook absently trailed his hand over Jimin’s shoulder as he got up for a bathroom break, Jimin realized that maybe Jungkook had been saying ‘I love you’ all along--he’d just not been using words. It wasn’t a revelation that would’ve come to Jimin in the middle of all the doubt and anger, but after it appeared in his brain, it was impossible to ignore.
Now, he registers every little loving touch as a confession, a re-affirmation that softens the need to hear Jungkook openly say the words. However, Jimin still likes to say it out loud and have a clear statement of his feelings out in the open--and to hear it from Jungkook. His favorite moments are the ones when Jungkook presses in close to bury his face in Jimin’s neck, whispering “I love you” into his skin.
Sometimes, though, Jimin decides to spare Jungkook and finds a different outlet for what Namjoon calls his cheesiness.
“I gotta go now, Jiminie, I still have to finish this project,” Taehyung says at the other end of the line.
“Now?” Jimin draws back to look at the time on his phone. “It’s ten PM!”
“I knoooow, which is why I gotta go. We have to send everything to the client by tomorrow morning.”
“Wow, you have even worse working hours than me.”
Humming vaguely, Taehyung says, “Maybe, but do you get to work in your pajamas from your bed?”
Jimin laughs, stretching out his leg to dig his toes into Jungkook’s thigh. “I’ll talk to you soon, Taetae. I love you.”
“Love you too, Jiminie,” Taehyung replies easily.
Hanging up, Jimin sees Jungkook has turned away from his game and is grinning at him. Jimin pokes him punishingly with a toe. “Don’t worry, I love you too.”
Catching the offending appendage, Jungkook wraps a big hand around Jimin’s foot. “Don’t you say ‘I love you’ too often for a tough cop?” he teases.
“Are you saying I’m soft?” Jimin manages to shoot back before Jungkook starts tickling his foot and all he can do is laugh helplessly.